Daimler and Renault-Nissan will announce Friday an expansion of their collaboration with a JV in Mexico to build entry-level cars for the German automaker and luxury CUVs for the French and Japanese alliance.
The plan, first reported by WardsAuto in May 2013 and citing industry sources, calls for Nissan to produce the newly released entry-level Mercedes CLA sedan, plus a derivative for its Infiniti luxury brand, at its Aguascalientes plant beginning April 2017.
According to a WardsAuto forecast, the JV will use Daimler’s MFA2 platform, which underpins the CLA, for a new A-Class MPV and B-Class SUV, as well as the new Infiniti QX40 CUV.
Daimler and Nissan officials would not elaborate on the JV today, but the companies issued a media advisory for a 3:30 p.m. (EST) press conference tomorrow with Dieter Zetsche and Carlos Ghosn, the respective chairmen of the automakers.
The latest tie-up represents a further broadening of relations between Renault-Nissan and Daimler, which already sees the three automakers sharing engine technology and production, as well as a small-car platform for the Renault and Smart brands.
The new JV satisfies growth aspirations for both automakers in North America, too.
Nissan desperately needs to infuse its premium Infiniti brand with fresh product. Sales in 2013 fell 2.9% to 116,455 units from 119,877 in 2012 against a segment that soared 12% to 1.98 million from 1.77 million. Infiniti’s share of the luxury market dipped to 5.9% from 6.8%.
In addition to the CUV at Aguascalientes, Infiniti will offer a new electric vehicle in 2016, sourced from Nissan’s Smyrna, TN, facility.
Daimler, meanwhile, wants to grow in the entry-level end of the luxury segment in the U.S., but historically has encountered razor-thin profit margins. Shifting production from Europe to Mexico, where labor costs and capacity additions come less expensively, should reduce pricing pressure on those types of vehicles.
The JV also satisfies production-capacity demands for Daimler, which has said it wants to “significantly” grow its North American production to keep pace with rival BMW, which beat Mercedes for the U.S. luxury sales crown last year by 10,000 units.
The first stage of the Daimler-Renault-Nissan collaboration came in April 2010, when the automakers announced a small-car platform sharing between Smart and Renault expected to begin next year.
Nissan this week started building 2.0L turbocharged 4-cyl. gasoline engines for Mercedes at its Decherd, TN, factory. The engines will see placement in Infiniti models, too.
Additional engine-sharing and development programs are under way at the companies and they share passenger- and commercial-vehicle platforms in Europe.