The automotive world is at the vanguard of “more change in the next five years than we’ve seen in the past 20,” suggested Carlos Ghosn, CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, during a Paris Motor Show news conference.
Some of the most significant changes will involve connected and autonomous vehicles, as well as the push towards electrified powertrains, said Dieter Zetsche, chairman and CEO of Daimler AG, which seven years ago formed its own partnership with Renault-Nissan. Automakers can also add the growing interest in ride- and car-sharing to the growth areas.
“We are not afraid of these changes,” added Ghosn. “We seem them as opportunities.” But they also make cooperation among traditional rivals all the more important because “No automaker can go it alone in this environment.”
When the Renault-Nissan-Daimler partnership was first formed, the automakers had three preliminary projects on the books. Today, there are so many Zetsche admitted he has lost count, “13, 14, maybe 15,” with a number of new ones under discussion.
Among the newest, Nissan is just getting ready to begin production of Infiniti luxury vehicles at a new assembly plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico. They’re based on a platform developed by Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz. And the German maker will begin rolling some of its own models down the line in 2018. All told, the factory will turn out as many as 230,000 luxury vehicles annually by 2030.
(Could Renault-Nissan top Toyota for global sales crown in 2017? Click Here to find out.)
Meanwhile, the completely redesigned Electric Drive models that will be built by Daimler’s Smart brand, starting later this year, will use motors provided by Renault.
Nissan, in turn, is providing the basic architecture that will be used for a new, midsize pickup truck that Mercedes-Benz plans to sell in a number of global markets, though the German maker will heavily modify it to fit into a luxury niche.
“This way,” Zetsche explained, “we will close one of the last remaining gaps in our line-up.”
Mercedes plans to show off a concept version of the all-new pickup “in the coming weeks,” the Daimler chief revealed.
(Click Here for more about why Smart is “all in” on battery cars.)
While the German maker has positioned itself as the third leg of the stool, it doesn’t have quite the same relationship as Renault does with Nissan. Those two automakers paired up in the late 1990s when it looked like Nissan could go broke. Renault took a major stake for a $6 billion investment that, at the time, many viewed as quite risky. Today, however, it is seen as an industry benchmark.
Daimler doesn’t have an equity stake. It is a marriage of convenience, with the three companies coming together regularly to look for ways that they can help one another bring new products, features or technologies to market, or cut costs on existing operations.
Nonetheless, “I believe, in many ways, our alliance has become a model of cooperation in the auto industry,” said Zetsche.
The two executives spoke a day after Daimler announced in Paris the creation of a new subsidiary, dubbed CASE, that is short for Connected, Autonomous, Sharing and Electrified. Zetsche also unveiled the Generation EQ concept, a prototype battery-car that will go into production sometime before the end of the decade. It will be the first in a wave of new battery-electric vehicles to be marketed through the sub-brand Mercedes-EQ.
(For more on Daimler’s plans, Click Here.)
Renault-Nissan is already considered one of the leaders in battery power. Moving forward, Ghosn said there will clearly need to be discussions among the partners to see how they can work together to stay on top of the changes sweeping through the auto industry.