The collaboration between Daimler and the Renault-Nissan Alliance, which has now expanded to 13 projects on three continents from an original plan to share development costs, drivetrains and production facilities for Smart and the Renault Twingo, is set to move into the sphere of electric cars next year. At the Frankfurt show, Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche announced that “in about a year” there will be electric versions of the Fortwo and Forfour, driven by a modified Renault R240 motor produced at Renault’s Cléon factory and powered by Daimler-supplied batteries.

Yet when it comes to full collaboration on electric vehicles, as well as connectivity and autonomous driving, Zetsche and his counterpart at the Alliance, Carlos Ghosn, seemed unusually reticent.

“Nissan now has 265,000 electric vehicles on the road, which is half of the total all around the world, and adding Daimler to that increases the production of motors [at Cléon] and spreads the costs of development, procurement and manufacturing,” said Ghosn. “Our people are now getting used to working together but, from time to time, there are some divergences on some issues.”

Zetsche added: “I have to admit that the battery is relatively specific for the topography of a specific car. With the next generation it could be different. But battery cells are an area where we could work together.”

On autonomous cars, which both groups are determined to drive forward, Ghosn said: “We are not working on the autonomous car together so far but it doesn’t mean we won’t. It is a matter of can we go faster? Can we benefit? We look at suggestions from our committees and decide whether to go or not to go.” And, according to Zetsche, none of those committees has proposed collaboration on autonomous vehicles yet.

“Electrification, autonomy and connectivity are all going to happen,” said Ghosn. “They will transform the products we are putting on the market and at this stage it’s unclear who are going to be the winners and who are going to be the losers.

“Most car makers are in search mode about the best technologies and the best ways to get to where they want to be in terms of what will be the least expensive and what consumers will accept. We are all eager to move quickly but cautious about the direction, partners and technologies. Even on specific areas like mapping there are so many different options.”

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