PARIS – Products from the collaboration between Renault-Nissan and Daimler are arriving on the market, and their success so far has encouraged more projects.
Mercedes-Benz has launched a small Mercedes van called Citan, the German auto maker’s version of the Renault Kangoo built in Maubeuge, France. More than 20,000 units of the Mercedes A-Class with an engine that originated with Renault have been ordered.
At the auto show here, CEOs Dieter Zetsche and Carlos Ghosn announce a new project for a jointly developed gasoline engine in addition to a 1.3L 3-cyl. engine project already under way.
“We are not sitting there with our calculators,” says Daimler’s Zetsche, “but the benefits are a billion number, not a million number.”
Zetsche and Renault-Nissan’s Ghosn say they know each other well, which has bolstered the success of the cooperative enterprise.
Zetsche underscores his point by describing a visit to the Renault Tech Center to meet the German-French team of engineers jointly developing the next Twingo and Smart car. He says the engineers made presentations in English as a unified team, with only their accents identifying them as being German or French.
The project started with some difficulties, Zetsche explains, because there were many technical challenges to meet the requirements of the two auto makers, whose cars are aimed at different markets.
Despite the high standards, “We are hitting our targets,” he says. “It is a great further boost for my confidence that we are on a very good path, benefiting on all three sides.”
Renault will produce the 4-door Twingo and the new 4-door Smart in Slovenia, and Daimler will build the 2-door Smart in the Smart factory in Hambach, France. Production is expected in 2014.
Renault-Nissan’s Ghosn says the project is working well for several reasons. For 13 years, he says, Renault and Nissan “have been refining how to work their two cultures together and delivering results, and since 2010, we have been building and learning the same skill set with our German colleague.”
Ghosn notes there is very little competition between Daimler and Renault-Nissan, which makes it more likely to find projects they can work on together.
Smaller engines like the 109-hp unit in the A-Class, which is homologated for 98 g/km of carbon-dioxide emissions, allows Mercedes to sell more entry-level vehicles. Ghosn says 30% of the 70,000 orders for the A-Class are for the small engine. “What we were hoping for is proving in reality to work.”
The Citan, launched at September’s Hanover commercial-vehicle show in Germany, is expected to take 4.5% of a small-van market estimated at 700,000 units, says Zetsche.
The project benefits both partners, because higher volume reduces Renault’s costs, he says.
Other cooperative projects include Daimler building engines for North America in a Nissan plant in Mexico; cross-supplying trucks in Japan between a Daimler subsidiary and Nissan; and an agreement for JATCO, a Nissan subsidiary, to license technology for a Daimler automatic transmission in 2016.
The only subject not on the table is a change in shareholdings. Daimler owns 3.1% of Renault and Nissan, and Renault-Nissan owns 3.1% of Daimler.
“What has developed in 30 months has gone beyond our expectations in the beginning,” Zetsche says. “So many good ideas are cropping up.”