BMW is trying to stay ahead of third-place Daimler's Mercedes-Benz, which recorded 26.6 percent growth in China sales in 2016 thanks to a fresher model lineup.

BMW, which already has one Chinese manufacturing venture with Brilliance, is launching European production of an electric Mini at its British plant near Oxford in 2019.

BMW is now considering another joint venture in China so that it can increase its production volumes and strengthen its electric vehicle presence in the market. Back then it didn't make a lot of sense because the German brand is already working with a different partner in China, Brilliance Automotive, as per the regulations of the Chinese government. BMW said it planned to grow the Mini brand in China with a new local partner, without naming Great Wall. That strategy helped propel the company to a 26 percent sales surge a year ago.

The sales are a sign that the company's recently announced plans to electrify more of its fleet may pay off.

"We are in discussions with Great Wall about setting up a joint venture to produce cars in Changshu", said a BMW executive, who was not authorised to speak on the matter.

"China has made it clear that basically it will not approve of new gasoline-car partnerships".

Year-to-date sales of both brands, which are part of the BMW Group, were up 64.2 percent in over the same period last year, the company said Friday.

Great Wall, which in August expressed an interest in the Jeep brand of Italian-American automaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's, is one of China's largest auto makers.

Brilliance China Automotive's shares were down 2.76 percent.