The Renault-Nissan Alliance has announced that it will be combining the light commercial vehicle arms of Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi into a single business unit, in a move that is aimed at reducing costs and maximising brand co-operation.
The Alliance has appointed Ashwani Gupta as senior vice president of the new business unit. Gupta has been vice president of Renault’s LCV division for the last three years, and was previously global program director for Nissan’s relaunched Datsun brand for developing markets.
One of the new LCV division’s first tasks is likely to be the integration of newly-acquired Mitsubishi Motors into the Alliance. Mitsubishi currently produces its own pick-up models, but it seems inevitable that future models will come from platforms shared with Renault and Nissan. How this will affect engineering and production jobs at Mitsubishi has not been disclosed, but it is unlikely to be positive. Mitsubishi has largely abandoned its van programme over the last decade, so it is highly possible that some Mitsubishi-branded vans spun off from Renault platforms could be a welome resurrection – particularly in markets like Australia where the Mitsubishi brand dwarfs Renault.
Within the Renault-Nissan Alliance, Renault is seen as the leader on vans while Nissan is the leader in both pick-ups and body-on-frame SUVs, which remain popular in America. The Renault Trafic and Master vans are already sold as Nissans in Europe, while the Nissan Navara platform forms the basis for the upcoming Renault Alaskan pick-up model.
The long-term plan is to presumably have a single platform for each sector, which can be sold as a Renault and/or Nissan and/or Mitsubishi in each market.
External partnerships in flux as industry shifts
The move to bring all of the Alliance’s LCV units together will also be aimed at fostering partnerships with other manufacturers as well. The Alliance and its members have different co-operative projects with Mercedes-Benz, GM, Fiat and others, but the industry picture is changing rapidly.
Renault currently has a partnership with Vauxhall and Opel that covers its mid-size vans (Renault Trafic = Vauxhall Vivaro) and large vans (Renault Master = Vauxhall Movano), but this will almost certainly end when the current contracts expire. With GM’s European brands being sold to Renault’s great French rival PSA, the next generation of Vauxhall and Opel vans are expected to be jointly developed with future Peugeot and Citroën models.
The Alliance also has a relationship with Fiat, which has its own version of the Renault Trafic platform (Fiat Talento), and the new Fiat Fullback pick-up is based on the Mitsubishi L200, which brings it further into the Alliance circle. However, Fiat is rumoured to be looking for a merger or global partnership with either GM or Volkswagen, which could impact future LCV projects with Renault-Nissan and Mitsubishi.
On the more positive side, the Alliance has been building a relationship with Daimler in both passenger and LCV divisions. The Mercedes-Benz Citan is a rebadged Renault Kangoo, and the upcoming X-Class pick-up model will be based on the Nissan Navara platform. Future projects are certainly possible, although both companies have said that they only pursue join programmes when “beneficial for both sides”.