BMW’s Chennai plant will soon become the first one outside Europe to manufacture the luxury car maker’s compact sports utility vehicle (SUV) the MINI Countryman. Production of the compact SUV will start next month and it will start hitting the roads by the end of the year, said Robert Frittrang, managing director, BMW India. The move to expand the company’s international production network is in response to the growing demand for premium MINI cars, BMW said in a statement. When the company starts production, MINI will be India’s first locally-manufactured premium small car. The firm expects significant growth over the medium- and long-term. According to the company, Chennai-manufactured MINI will fulfil the same quality standards that apply to BMW Group models worldwide. BMW also expects local production of MINI could improve its demand in India. “It is a very good product for Indian road condition, with high ground clearance. It is also a car in which five persons can travel comfortably,” Frittrang told reporters on the sidelines of the convocation ceremony of Indo-German Training Centre, Chennai. The locally-produced vehicle will be introduced in two diesel variants - MINI Cooper D Countryman and MINI Cooper D Countryman High.
Another petrol variant, MINI One Countryman, will also be produced at Chennai. Since 2007, the company has invested around ^60 million in India. The other petrol variants - MINI Cooper S Countryman and MINI Cooper S Countryman High – will be imported in India as completely built-up units (CBUs). The price of the vehicles range from Rs 26.60 lakh to Rs 37.50 lakh. At present, the compact SUV is manufactured at Oxford in UK and in Austria. India is the 100th market in the global MINI sales network and has become increasingly significant for the BMW Group since establishing its presence in India from 2007. From January 2012, MINI has continued to grow its presence in India and has established five exclusive outlets across Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore. In March 2007, BMW India officially opened its production plant in Chennai. The existing facility in a 40-acre land in Mahindra World City, about 50 kms away from Chennai city, has a capacity to manufacture 11,000 units a year, in two shifts, said Frittrang. At present, BMW’s Chennai plant produces BMW 3 Series, BMW 5 Series, BMW X1, and BMW X3. In 2013, the plant will also produce BMW 7 series and BMW 1 series.