The Renault-Nissan alliance on Wednesday (7 April, 2010) confirmed widespread speculation earlier this week it would enter a strategic alliance with German automaker Daimler, although the trio was at pains today to insist brand identities would remain intact.
In Brussels, the alliance unveiled plans to enter into an equity exchange which will give the Franco-Japanese group a 3.1% stake in Daimler and the German automaker an identical stake in Renault and Nissan.
Specifically, the deal foresees collaboration on the next-generation Smart Fortwo and Renault Twingo, including electric versions, as well as on expanding the Smart and Twingo families.
The marriage of the trio will also include widespread powertrain development for “future applications” in passenger cars and light commercial vehicles.
This includes co-development of Renault-Nissan diesel and petrol engines for the new Smart and Twingo variants, to be “adapted and modified to Mercedes-Benz characteristics”.
The manufacturers have also inked commitments to share Daimler engines for Nissan’s luxury division, Infiniti, while Renault-Nissan’s diesel powerplants and transmissions will be shared with the Mercedes-Benz Vito van line.
“Right away, we are strengthening our competitiveness in the small and compact car segment and we are reducing our CO2 footprint,” said Daimler management board chairman and Mercedes-Benz Cars head Dieter Zetsche in a statement.
“We know we can make brand-typical products based on shared architectures. The individual brand identities will be unaffected.”
Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan alliance, added: “We how to work successfully in collaborative partnerships, and this experience is extremely valuable in today’s and even more tomorrow’s global auto industry. This agreement will extend our strategic collaboration and create lasting value for the [alliance].
The successor to the current Smart Fortwo, a new Smart four-seater [a successor to the ill-fated Forfour developed and built with Mitsubishi in the 2000s – ed] and the next-generation Renault Twingo will be engineered on the basis of a jointly developed architecture. All vehicles will clearly differ from each other in terms of product design.
One main characteristic of the new architecture will be the unique rear wheel drive concept used by current Smart vehicles. The launches of the jointly developed models are planned for 2013 onwards.
The Smart plant in Hambach, France will be the production location for the two seater versions while the Renault plant in Novo Mesto, Slovenia will build the four-seaters. Right from its market launch, the jointly developed future models will also be available with electric drive.
Powertrain sharing will focus on the sharing of fuel-efficient, diesel and gasoline engines between the Renault-Nissan alliance and Daimler. Renault-Nissan will provide three and four cylinder petrol and diesel engines to Daimler, which will then be adapted and modified.
Daimler will provide four- and six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines to Infiniti while Daimler, Renault and Nissan will also cooperate on future petrol and diesel engines.
Final production decisions for newly co-developed engines have yet to be decided.
The companies said that engine cooperation will be driven by a technical concept that ensures the preservation of brand and product identities, while providing a competitive cost structure.
In the LCV sector, Mercedes-Benz Vans will expand its line to include a Renault-based entry-level model, intended for commercial usage, from 2012 onwards. This will be produced at the Renault plant in Maubeuge, France. Renault has previously cooperated with Opel and Nissan on medium and large vans for Europe.
In addition to cooperating on small commercial vehicles, selected powertrain components will also be shared to enlarge mid-size van product lines and volumes. This includes a small diesel engine and transmissions which Daimler will procure from Renault-Nissan for its mid-size van, the Mercedes-Benz Vito.
The strategic cooperation will be managed by Renault-Nissan BV for the alliance and Daimler through a new cooperation committee giving representation to all parties. The cooperation committee will be co-chaired by Carlos Ghosn and Dieter Zetsche and steered by senior executives of the three companies.
Both groups maintained the deal would create a “long-term framework”, with potential studies on shared modules and components between Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz vehicles, plus regional cooperation in the US, China and Japan between Infiniti and Daimler.
Additional reporting: Chris Wright
A note on future product implications
The implications of this tie-up for both Daimler and Renault-Nissan alliance brands will be extensive, particularly when it comes to powertrains. In return for a supply of I4 and V6 engines to Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz gains the Alliance’s latest generation small engines for the A- and B-Class successors due next year. The mix of Daimler’s Tesla-developed technology and Nissan’s own electric vehicle expertise will be interesting – which will win out in the contest to develop the promised EV versions of the next Twingo, Smart Fortwo and Smart Forfour?
To learn how today’s announcement affects the future model plans for the Mercedes-Benz, smart, Renault, Nissan and Infiniti brands, click on the link to PLDB, just-auto.com’s future vehicles database that is updated daily in real time.