We learned last month that BMW and Chinese automaker Brilliance Auto would be entering into a partnership to develop a new brand in China under the name Zinoro. The joint venture was to focus on penetrating the burgeoning Chinese electric car market. It was unclear when anybody would get to see the fruits of that effort, but it looks like some spy photos are making their way through the digital grapevine.
Last week, images of a heavily camouflaged vehicle bearing a strong resemblance to BMW's X1 crossover were captured in Europe. While the design of the new vehicle is very clearly derived from the BMW X1, the emblem on the front grill definitely does not belong to the German automaker.
Although there is no way to tell from the photographs whether the X1 look-alike is an electric car, it is widely suspected that Zinoro automobiles will all be electric. Given the truck's close resemblance to the BMW X1 and its absence of any BMW logos, it seems highly likely that this in fact is the Zinoro we read about in April, and likewise, it is probable that the mystery vehicle is powered by an electric engine.
The fact that the car was spotted in Europe is also worth noting. When BMW and Brilliance first announced their partnership, it was with the understanding that Zinoro-branded vehicles would be sold only in China. Additionally, they were to be sold through their own distribution channel with no direct link to BMW. The main reason for this strategy was so that the German automaker could avoid competing with its own line of electric cars when they go on sale. With a Zinoro prototype apparently being tested in Europe, is it possible that the two manufacturers have plans to sell it outside of Asia?
Partnerships between international and Chinese automakers have become fairly normative in the industry as of late. In addition to the BMW/Brilliance joint venture, Nissan is also working with carmaker Dongfeng on the Venucia line of vehicles and Mercedez-Benz is partnered with BYD for the Denza brand.