BMW is set to build Minis in China, if a proposed deal with the country's largest SUV manufacturer Great Wall Motor pays off. Talks are being held in secret to open up the world's largest car market to the British-branded cars, and the partnership could mean Minis being exported from China to other countries – including the UK. 

The China move would mean that production of the iconic Mini Hatch could move out of Europe for the first time ever – the company's smallest cars are currently manufactured in Oxford and the Netherlands, although the Countryman SUV is built at BMW factories around the world, including Thailand and India.

The BMW-owned car maker sold 230,000 cars worldwide in the year running up to August 2017, its most successful sales period yet. Recent attempts to expand the Mini range with coupe, roadster and three-door SUV models have stalled, although the company has committed to a new electric model in 2019 and is said to be considering a four-door coupe model to sit at the top of the range. 

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Chinese import rules

Under strict rules set by the country's government, non-Chinese companies must partner up with native companies to sell products in the lucrative 1.5 billion-strong nation without punitive taxes being added to the list price. If Mini was to partner with Great Wall it would mean being able to sell smaller models in the country at more competitive prices. 

Great Wall, founded in 1984, has established itself as a mid-level player in the Chinese market, selling just over a million cars worldwide in 2016 and ranking seventh in its domestic market. It primarily sells SUVs at prices intended to undercut Western imports, and is one of the largest Chinese players that has yet to sign a joint venture deal with a foreign manufacturer. 

Gallery: 2017 Mini Countryman