Seven years and 1.2 million vans into their co-operative deal to develop and make vans primarily for the European market, General Motors Europe (GME) and Renault are soon to release two redesigned model lines.

Upgraded versions dubbed 'Phase III' will be introduced next September.

The compact models for GME's Opel/Vauxhall (GM) and Renault brands are called Vivaro and Trafic respectively and the large versions are called Movano (Opel/Vauxhall) and Master (Renault).

The French automaker's Japanese partner also sells these models in Europe under the Nissan brand as the Primastar and Interstar (and also rebadges the small Renault Kangoo van as the Kubistar).

Renault said the cooperation agreement enables the manufacturers to improve coverage of the European light commercial vehicles market.

A similar alliance sees the PSA brands Citroen and Peugeot share van models with the Fiat group and this deal also extends to passenger-carrying MPVs, the European term for minivans.

Under the Renault/GM/Nissan alliance, about 550,000 compact vans have been produced since the model was first released in 2001.

The Vivaro/Trafic compact van, made at the GM Europe plant in Luton (UK) since 2001 and at the Nissan plant in Barcelona (Spain) since 2002, reached record production levels in 2005, with both plants running at maximum capacity to make 164,000 units.

In 2002, the Renault/GM agreement was extended to cover supply of the Master large van (made at the Renault Batilly plant in France) to General Motors Europe, for sale as the Movano. Since 2000, 660,000 of these large vans have been made and production reached a record 102,430 units in 2005.

The co-operation between General Motors Europe and Renault started in December 1996, when an agreement was reached on co-development of a compact van, with shared costs and joint production. Opel and Renault invested EUR700m on design and production engineering for the new models (EUR400 m on development and EUR300m on production processes).

As well as a 50-50 investment split, the agreement also specified joint responsibilities: Renault would handle design, development and engine supply, and GM Europe would handle manufacture at its plant in Luton, UK. The van was released in 2001 under two model names : Trafic (Renault) and Vivaro (Opel/Vauxhall).

Because the model proved so successful, it was decided to increase production capacities under the Renault-Nissan Alliance, with manufacture at the Nissan Barcelona plant beginning in September 2002. The agreement was then extended to all three manufacturers.

Renault-GME-Nissan LCV production by plant in 2005
Luton 90,414
Barcelona 74,546
Batilly 102,430