BMW Group and Brilliance China Automotive Holdings have officially opened their joint venture plant BMW Brilliance Automotive in Shenyang, the capital of the Liaoning province in north-east China.

The partners each hold a 50% share in the joint venture, in which €450 million euros will be invested by 2005. In the medium term, annual production of around 30,000 BMW 3 and 5 series vehicles is planned and the joint venture will employ approximately 3,000 staff.

BMW chairman Helmut Panke said: "The joint venture is a milestone for the BMW Group. With the Shenyang plant, we are very well prepared to meet future challenges here in China. We want to dedicate our efforts to China for the long term. I am convinced that together we will make this joint venture a success that both partners will notably benefit from."

Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Chairman Wu Xiao An added: "Our cooperation with BMW is a crucial step for Brilliance. It signals the success of both our strategic partnership and the global vision of our company. The opening of the Shenyang plant will speed up both parties to move into the vast potentials of the fastest growing automotive market while giving many more Chinese consumers the opportunity to enjoy the renowned quality of BMW products."

BMW sees the joint venture as a fundamental step in its process of internationalisation. The company is strengthening its global presence and strategically opening up new markets, particularly among the rapidly growing markets in Asia. Over the next five years, the Munich-based firm plans to increase its annual sales in Asia from around 93,000 units in 2003 to 150,000 by 2008.

The first Chinese-made BMW 3 series came off the assembly line in September 2003 but the brand has had a representative office in Beijing since 1994.

In the first four months of 2004, sales in Chinese markets, including Mini and Rolls-Royce, were up 41.4% to 8,580 cars, from 6,065 in the same period last year.

Deliveries to customers in the Chinese mainland increased by 56.7% to 5,827 (2003: 3,719). This includes 3,877 3 and 5 series models produced locally.

The group´s delivered 29,799 vehicles in the first four months of 2004, an increase of 17.4% (previous year: 25,387).

In the 2003 financial year, Chinese markets ranked for the first time in the group´s top 10. They now rank 8th.

BMW Group operates 24 production and assembly plants in 14 countries, including six in Asia (Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and China). The sales network consists of 33 company-owned sales subsidiaries and about 3,000 dealerships worldwide.

There are 27 outlets in the Chinese mainland.