After the worst two years of recession almost anyone alive today can remember, it appears we may be tip-toeing – slowly – towards a return to brighter times.

Everything is coated with with caveats and caution of course. Fingers have been burned very, very badly and amid all the talk of double-dips as well as W, X and Y- shaped recoveries, optimistic forecasts are always cloaked in language of an ultra-conservative nature.

But after 24 months of almost unremitting gloom for the auto industry there are signs – dare we say green shoots? – that a corner has been turned.

And after being thought of as the great panacea to vehicle manufacturers’ woes – particularly Western operators – it is China to which most optimism appears to be attached.

But any producer believing it can simply march into this vast country, stretching across countless time zones and extraordinary distances will soon find themselves staring again at those negative balance sheets pretty quickly.

BMW has long viewed China as ripe for development – not with the idea it will sell countless millions of models – but rather that discerning purchasers will buy into its heritage, traditional and quality. 
Take this week’s news the German giant is mulling production of its X1 Sports Activity Vehicle at its Tiexi plant in the Shenyang region.

The Tiexi plant currently builds BMW 3 and 5 Series models for China but the crucial factor as far as the manufacturer is concerned is that it constructs on the ground.

“If you are not producing locally, your are not integrated into he local community somehow,” a BMW spokesman told just-auto from Munich. “We have a saying which is that production has to follow the market.”

“We are trying to cope with the market growth and to increase the level of our production to the level of market demand.”

BMW is currently talking to the Chinese authorities to see whether or not it can increase production locally.

It is hardly conceivable that the Chinese would turn BMW down, but at the very least it shows a sensitivity to local needs that perhaps require a cultural as well as hard-headed business approach. It’s good manners if nothing else.

And BMW has translated that approach to the other world auto behemoth – the US – through the auspices of its Spartanburg plant in South Carolina.

Now having surpassed the 200,000 model mark, the manufacturer is firmly implanted in American eyes, American supply chains and yes, it has secured American jobs.

BMW is not going to be a telephone number selling producer and perhaps it rather likes it that way. 
Nonetheless, it is in the process of building a new Chinese plant in Shenyang this year, creating 1,000 jobs and making the country BMW’s fourth-largest market worldwide.

“We have a prestigious and design-winning beautiful product and have a good reputation with the local market,” added the BMW spokesman. “We don’t know there is a [Chinese] GDP resurgence but we have a good image – we are part of society.”

The company’s commitment – apart from being “a good employer” – even extends to being involved in traffic safety schemes.

BMW is doing the hard yards and is reaping the rewards slowly and surely. There are no quick wins, no easy fixes, but BMW is gaining a priceless commodity of reputation.