The electric Mini Cooper is threatened by new European rules

With customs duties pushed to 48.1% instead of 10%, the launch of the new generation of the electric Mini Cooper has taken a hit. Production of this model in China will cost the BMW group more than expected.

By wanting to sanction Chinese electric cars, the European Commission will cause collateral victims among European manufacturers like Mini or Cupra. The official European publication of June 12 details the new customs duties imposed on various electric vehicles produced in China from July 4. The rate varies almost from one to two depending on the manufacturer, which will inevitably influence sales prices.

The new electric Mini Cooper and Cupra Tavascan could thus see their commercial launch disrupted by their Chinese production. The height of irony is that the Chinese brand Leapmotor could get through these new customs duties.

From 17.4 to 38.1% more

These new customs duties complement the 10% currently applied to imports into Europe. There is then a large gap between the groups, with additional taxation ranging from 17.4% (for BYD) to 38.1% (for MG). This percentage is supposed to vary depending on the subsidies that Chinese companies could have received from their government, but only 3 groups seem to have been observed (BYD, Geely, SAIC).

A majority of Chinese manufacturers find themselves with a fixed rate of 21% (Xpeng, Aiways, Nio, Tesla, etc.) without a thorough investigation by the EU. The maximum rate of 38.1% corresponds to companies that did not want to cooperate with the EU investigation.

A Mini with a maximum sanction

Mini finds himself in the middle of all this in a particularly unclear situation. The joint venture created with the Chinese group JAC to produce the electric Mini Cooper in China is not mentioned in the list of companies that cooperated in the investigation. The joint venture apparently came too late to be integrated. As a result, instead of accessing generic compensatory customs duties, set at 21%, Mini would suffer the wrath of Europe with taxation at 38.1% according to Reuters.

Mini Cooper E // Source: Mini
Mini Cooper E // Source: Mini

The brand can still appeal the decision. However, disputes will only be taken into account for the definition of final rights, which is only planned for the month of November.

In France, the starting price of the electric Mini Cooper was €34,000 or €38,000 depending on the engine. It may be complicated for the brand to maintain these prices with such heavy import taxes. In addition, the new Mini Cooper no longer benefits from the ecological bonus, nor from other French purchasing aid.

New electric Mini Cooper // Source: Raphaelle BautNew electric Mini Cooper // Source: Raphaelle Baut
New electric Mini Cooper // Source: Raphaelle Baut

To say that Mini has planned from the start to repatriate production of this model to the United Kingdom in 2026, as soon as their factory is modernized, the sanction appears very disproportionate.

Cupra in a situation quite similar to Mini

The new model from the Spanish brand Cupra risks having the same sanction as the Mini. The joint venture with Chinese manufacturer BAIC is not mentioned in the EU list. The Cupra Tavascan could also find itself taxed at 38.1% from July, before possibly returning to a rate of 21%.

The Cupra Tavascan coupe SUV // Source: Cupra (Seat)The Cupra Tavascan coupe SUV // Source: Cupra (Seat)
The Cupra Tavascan coupe SUV // Source: Cupra (Seat)

Unlike Mini, the choice to produce the Tavascan in China is not intended to be temporary for Cupra. But it will be interesting to see if the Volkswagen group will not seek to relocate its production to Europe with this financial sanction which is rather difficult to absorb.

Leapmotor has the solution to escape the 21% surcharge

Information leaked in March about the assembly of T03 models in a Stellantis factory in Poland. It is confirmed this June 17 by new Reuters information indicating that the first copies have already left the factory concerned. Larger volume production is planned for September with the opening of marketing in Europe by the Stellantis group, which has been a partner of this Chinese brand since the end of 2023.

The Leapmotor T03 city car would thus escape additional European customs duties. The model could even benefit from the ecological bonus in France, but this has yet to be confirmed with the calculation of its eco-score.

The Leapmotor offer in Europe with the T03 // Source: Raphaelle BautThe Leapmotor offer in Europe with the T03 // Source: Raphaelle Baut
The Leapmotor offer in Europe with the T03 // Source: Raphaelle Baut

However, the brand’s second model could continue to be manufactured in China. The Leapmotor C10 could be assembled in Italy, but this higher-priced model could also absorb the European surcharge by maintaining Chinese manufacturing.

Tesla, Dacia, Mini, Cupra will be doubly penalized in France for their Chinese production. A subject to follow in our Watt Else newsletter dedicated to electric mobility.

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