The news in mid-July that BMW had sold its 50% share in the Campo Largo (Paraná state)-based Tritec engine joint venture plant to private equity group Cerberus was no surprise here in Brazil.

BMW had originally sourced a 1.6-litre petrol engine - related to units used in Tritec partner Chrysler's then-current Neon and PT Cruiser - from there for its 2001 revival of the Mini brand. But it had now switched to engines developed with PSA and, late in June, Tritec produced the last England-bound units for the 'old' Mini convertible - the redesigned hatchback has had its PSA engines for a while now.

Tritec was built to make 400,000 engines a year but never actually made more than half that annually in a decade of operations.

The company first laid off 350 workers previously engaged in making 850 engines per day and, more recently, axed another 240 - two thirds of the work force are now gone.

Tritec's corporate communications manager, Thomas Prete, told just-auto: "Chrysler continues looking for an alternative for the plant's future. There are ongoing negotiations".

Chinese automaker Lifan is said to be among those interested, but only in terms of a 'lift 'n' shift - transferring the machinery to China in much the same way Nanjing moved the former MG Rover plant equipment out of  Longbridge in the UK.

Here in Brazil it is said that Tritec came apart after BMW did not appreciate arch-rival Daimler-Benz effectively joining its team by acquiring Chrysler: hence the subsequent deal-dooming agreement when BMW said it would to produce its own Mini engines in partnership with PSA.

Fernando Calmon