Purpose - The purpose of this paper aims to investigate the relationship between brand personality, country-of-origin (COO) image and purchase intention. Specifically, it is suggested that COO image exerts both main and interaction impact on purchase intention. Design/methodology/approach - A cross-city survey of China's auto industry for the Sino-German Joint Venture's auto brand of Bora was conducted to test hypotheses, predicted on a sample of 1,200 respondents. Another sample for Japan and the Sino-Japanese Joint Venture's Honda auto brand was used for validation. Findings - Results reveal that both brand personality and COO image exert significant positive main effects on purchase intention. Furthermore, COO image is found to be a positive moderator in the relationship between brand personality and purchase intention. Specifically, a positive COO image could enhance brand personality's positive impact on purchase intention, whereas a negative COO image could significantly decrease the positive brand personality effect on purchase intention. Companies with both weak brand personality and a negative COO image achieve a higher purchase intention than those with weak brand personality, yet a positive COO image. Originality/value - This study provides new theoretical insights into factors influencing consumers' purchase decision making by incorporating COO image as a moderator in the relationship between brand personality and purchase intention. It also offers joint ventures useful advice on whether to emphasize brand origin. If a company is weak in both brand personality and COO image, it is better not to emphasize brand origin. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.