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Mazda or Scion or Fiat? Alliances Are Changing the Face of the Auto Industry

Automakers partner up to cut costs, expand product lines.

by on May.28, 2015

The new Mazda Miata was developed as part of a joint venture with Fiat.

When the new iA comes to Scion showrooms later this year, it will mark the first time Toyota’s youth-oriented brand has offered a sedan.

To bring it to market, Scion sought out some help, largely repurposing a 4-door model developed by smaller Japanese automaker Mazda. Toyota also will use the subcompact Mazda2 as the starting point for the next version of its small Yaris model – which will be assembled at a new Mazda plant in Mexico.

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Confused? You’re not alone.  It takes more than just a scorecard to keep up with the convoluted alliances in today’s increasingly competitive auto industry. Hoping to add more models to their line-ups while at the same time driving down costs, traditional competitors are finding advantages to working together.

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Mercedes May Launch New X-Class Microcar

Germans turning to French alliance partner Renault for help.

by on Mar.19, 2013

Mercedes is looking to follow the lead of key competitors like BMW and Audi.

It may require an alphabetic revision, but Mercedes-Benz is reportedly working up a new model line that would slot somewhere between the maker’s current bottom-end A-Class and the Smart car produced by parent Daimler AG.

Designed to take on competitors like the Audi A1 and a front-drive BMW model now under development, Mercedes is expected to turn to its French alliance partner Renault to help develop the small car. The X-Class would be targeted at the growing market for high-mileage microcars and be offered in a mix of body styles.

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Production of the new line is expected to begin around 2018, according to Germany’s AutoBild magazine, with the X-Class expected to come in at a base price of around €20,000, or $26,000 at current exchange rates. That would create a serious challenge for the maker, something Mercedes apparently will address by turning to one of its partners for assistance.

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Chinese Reportedly Eyeing Stake in Daimler AG

German maker "always welcome" to new investors.

by on Jan.07, 2013

Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche may soon have the Chinese holding a major stake in the German company.

China’s sovereign wealth fund is reportedly looking to acquire a significant stake in Daimler AG, the German parent of automotive brands Mercedes-Benz and Smart.

A report in the well-placed Communist Party newspaper the Peoples Daily is citing anonymous sources indicating that the China Investment Corp. is negotiating the purchase of as much as 10% of the German manufacturer.

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The news sent Daimler shares soaring in European trading – even though a company official declined to comment on “media speculation.” But that spokesperson also noted that maker “always welcome(s)” discussions with “any new investors.”

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Global Auto Growth Will Force Shift to Battery Power, Warns Zetsche

German maker's new charging system cuts time to as little as 1 hour.

by on Apr.06, 2012

Daimler CEO Zetsche wants to expand the maker's investment in battery technology.

Daimler AG is doubling down on electric propulsion – and backing its expanding investment in battery technology with the launch of a new charging system that can recharge the batteries for an electric Smart car in as little as one hour, Daimler chief executive officer Dieter Zetsche told the company’s shareholders as he addressed the company annual meeting.

The maker is looking at opportunities to grow electric car sales in not only key Western markets, but also in emerging markets such as China, where Zetsche told investors the technology has become “a big issue.” With worldwide car sales likely to increase by 50% before decade’s end, he stressed, automakers like Daimler have no alternative to turn to battery power.

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In the days leading up to the annual meeting, Daimler locked down a new joint venture with Chinese partner BYD – generally considered the leader in that market’s battery car technology – to launch the all-new Denza brand.  It will focus on launching a line of  affordable electric vehicles.

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Nissan, Daimler to Jointly Build Engines in U.S.

"We share the office, not the bed."

by on Jan.09, 2012

Daimler Chief Dieter Zetsche (l), with Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn.

The rapidly expanding partnership between Germany’s Daimler AG and the Euro-Asian Renault-Nissan Alliance will take another step forward when the partners begin production of a new line of 4-cylinder engines in the U.S. in 2014.

Nissan’s current powertrain plant, in Decherd, Tennessee will eventually be capable of producing as many as 250,000 engines annually for use in both Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti models.  That factory, opened in 1997, already produces a mix of 4-, 6- and 8-cylinder engines for both the flagship Nissan and high-line Infiniti brands.

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The decision to jointly produce engines in Decherd is the latest expansion of the Daimler/Nissan/Renault partnership initiated almost two years ago, and suggests that there may be further projects to come. When asked whether that might lead to a full-scale merger, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said no, insisting the step-by-step strategy makes more sense for the three makers.

“We share the office and not the bed, and that works perfectly well,” Zetsche explained during a preview of the Detroit Auto Show.

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Mercedes F800 and Concept Fascination Prototypes To Reappear as Next-Gen A-Class

All-new look to put smallest Benz in competition with A3 and VW Golf – and bring it to the U.S.

by on Jul.16, 2010

First shown in Paris in 2008, the Mercedes-Benz Concept Fascination will strongly influence the next-generation A-Class, especially the back half.

“Fascinating,” as Mr. Spock might say.  Fascination, we’d correct him.  Or, more precisely, the striking Concept Fascination prototype that drew admiring stares when it made its debut at the 2008 Paris Motor Show.

A somewhat less exotic version has already appeared in production, the 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe.  But it seems the show car’s influence is stretching into other designs, sources indicate.  A sort of coupe-wagon crossover, the Fascination strongly influenced another intriguing concept vehicle, this year’s Mercedes-Benz F800 Style.

Blend them together, and they will reappear as the next-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class, due to market roughly two years from now.

The original A-Class was the German maker’s first effort to target the emerging mini-luxury segment.  Short, narrow and tall, it was a bit ungainly, in part because it was conceived as a way to use a variety of different powertrains, possibly even electric drive, key components of which would be mounted below the vehicle’s load floor.

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Moving forward, Mercedes appears to be aiming for something a bit more conventional in overall design, but a replacement A-Class that, nonetheless, wins hearts, minds and pocketbooks with eye-catching good looks and plenty of features, say several company insiders.

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More Challenges For Daimler’s Zetsche

Shareholders increasingly skeptical.

by on Apr.19, 2010

Zetsche has put his stamp on Daimler AG, but his strategy is coming under close scrutiny.

The Daimler AG annual meetings have a long history of dragging on as shareholders use the forum to voice opinions about the failings of company’s management – and the 2010 meeting was no exception.  But the key question, this year, is one that could come to haunt the company an its primary brand, Mercedes-Benz.

“It seems to me our company is suffering from an identity crisis,” said one frustrated shareholder during the 4-hour session, wondering a loud about Daimler’s seemingly schizophrenic strategy.

On the one hand, the company wants to keep selling high-end luxury cars – it really, really does and really doesn’t have much choice.  But on the other hand, Mercedes-Benz seems committed to the development of smaller cars and greener vehicles as quickly as possible — something the new deal with the Renault-Nissan Alliance underscores.

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Daimler Defends New Alliance With Renault-Nissan

Says alliances critical to overcome its own limitations.

by on Apr.14, 2010

Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche is defending the company's new alliance with Renault-Nissan as a critical part of its survival.

In the face of some intense skepticism among German shareholders, Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche defended the company’s new alliance with Renault-Nissan, during the German maker’s boisterous annual meeting.

The deal, announced last week, involves cooperation on a range of new vehicles – including Daimler’s next-generation Smart cars – engines and other components.  There is also a small equity swap designed, Zetsche said at the time, to underscore the seriousness of the new partnership.

“The cooperation agreed upon with Renault-Nissan is an important step for the Group on the way to establish a highly efficient business system,” Zetsche told more than 5,000 restless shareholders meeting in Berlin.

The alliance with Renault will enhance Smart’s position as a youthful brand offering, but also assist with models like the Mercedes-Benz A- and B-Class, said Zetsche, insisting there is a growing market for practical and attractive urban vehicles.

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