Daimler: N.A. commercial truck market not affected by Renault alliance

The new alliance announced Wednesday by Daimler AG and Renault-Nissan will have no immediate effect on the North American commercial market, despite the companies sharing technology and developing a new commercial van for the European market, a Daimler spokesperson told Fleet Owner

The new alliance announced Wednesday by Daimler AG and Renault-Nissan will have no immediate effect on the North American commercial market, despite the companies sharing technology and developing a new commercial van for the European market, a Daimler spokesperson told Fleet Owner.

It will have an effect on several car brands around the world, including Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz line and Nissan’s Infinity luxury brand. In a joint news conference in Brussels, Belgium, this morning, Daimler AG chairman of the board Dr. Dieter Zetsche outlined the reasons why the new Daimler-Renault-Nissan alliance will work in producing “economies of scale” for all the companies involved.

“Daimler and the Renault-Nissan alliance are combining common interests to form a promising foundation for a successful, strategically sound cooperation that is based on a number of very concrete and attractive project cooperations,” he said. “Our skills complement each other very well. Right away, we are strengthening our competitiveness in the small and compact car segment and are reducing our CO2 footprint – both on a long-term basis. We know that we can make brand-typical products based on shared architectures. The individual brand identities will remain unaffected.”

The alliance, in which Renault-Nissan will take a 3.1% stake in Daimler in exchange for 3.1% stakes in both Renault and Nissan (Renault owns 44% of Nissan), will focus primarily on common architecture for small vehicles and powertrain technology with a particular focus on engines.

In addition, the alliance will produce a new light commercial van for Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz Vans unit. The van, based on Renault’s Kangoo, will be sold in Europe and will not be “coming here,” Han Tjan, Daimler’s director of corporate communications for North America, told Fleet Owner. The van is slated for commercial use beginning in 2012 and will be built at Renault’s Maubeuge, France, plant.

The companies will also share powertrain components, including a small diesel engine and transmission from Renault-Nissan for Daimler’s mid-size van, the Mercedes-Benz Vito, which is sold in Europe. It is believed by sharing the costs associated with the van production, the products will become more cost-effective for the marketplace and product offerings will be enlarged.

Mercedes-Benz USA, which sells the Sprinter here, doesn’t see the immediate need for a small commercial van in the U.S.

“I don’t think we need it,” Ernst Libe, president & CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, told Fleet Owner. “Do we rush in? No. But we’re certainly going to watch” the market.

Claus Tritt, vp-operations for Daimler Vans USA, simply said “never say never” when asked if small vans would be in the future for that division.

Ultimately, though, the alliance is about small car technology as Daimler will benefit from Renault-Nissan’s expertise in smaller vehicles to produce its next generation Smart cars. Daimler will create a Smart four-seater and Renault its Twingo based on a jointly developed architecture. The vehicles will remain unique in terms of product design, the companies said, but will include a common rear-wheel drive concept. New models, which will include optional electric drive, are planned for 2013, with production slated for the two-seat versions in Hambach, France, and the four-seat versions set for the Renault plant in Novo Mesto, Slovenia.

“This agreement will extend our strategic collaboration and create lasting value for the Renault-Nissan alliance and Daimler as we work on broadening and strengthening our product offering, efficiently utilizing all available resources and developing the innovative technologies required in the coming decade,” Carlos Ghosn, chairman & CEO of the Renault-Nissan alliance said.

Renault will be gaining a number of advantages through the alliance, including access to Mercedes-Benz engines for its Infinity luxury line. Those engines will include four- and six-cylinder gas and diesel versions. The Renault-Nissan alliance will provide three- and four-cylinder engines to the Mercedes line. Those engines will be “modified to reflect Mercedes’ characteristics.”

“A key objective is to increase competitiveness of all partners through a substantial increase in volumes, leading to economies of scale and cost sharing in development,” the companies said in a joint press release.

“The auto industry is not new to strategic partnerships for product development as is evident from earlier tie-ups such as the PSA-Toyota joint venture to manufacture small city cars at Kolin in Czech Republic or the BMW-PSA joint venture that produces engines used in the MINI, Peugeot and Citroën brand models,” said Vigneshwaran Chandran, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan. “With stringent ACEA fleet CO2 emission targets for European manufacturers around the 130g/km mark and recently announced Cafe targets for fuel efficiency and 250 g/mile of CO2, luxury and volume manufacturers are racing towards time to make their cars green and emission compliant. Daimler’s Mercedes brand in Europe had one of the highest fleet average emissions, at 175g/km in 2008, and the company is trying to reduce fleet emissions through introduction of smaller downsized engines and low CO2 variants across its model line-up.”

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