The long-running alliance between French automaker Renault and Japan’s Nissan could soon get a little bit larger as the partners explore a possible tie-up with another Japanese maker, Mitsubishi Motors.
The proposed alliance would cover a number of different product segments and include the development of new electric vehicles, an emerging market niche into which Renault and Nissan have already invested billions of dollars to develop and produce vehicles like the Leaf battery-electric vehicle.
“Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors have jointly benefited from several collaborations in the past,” noted Carlos Ghosn, who serves as CEO at both Nissan and Renault. “I welcome the direction being taken towards this broader cooperation, creating new opportunities for Renault in addition to further leveraging the productive relationship between Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors.”
Nissan already partners with Mitsubishi in a joint venture called NMKV. The new proposal would see them jointly developed a new small car that they could sell globally. That would include one version using an electric drivetrain. Mitsubishi would also get two new sedans using Renault platforms, one targeting the North American market,
The proposed partnership comes along at a critical time for all three companies. The makers have each staked out a major role in the nascent electric vehicle market but have been struggling as sales lag initial expectations.
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Renault, in particular, has been hammered by the recession in its home European market. Mitsubishi, Japan’s sixth-largest automaker, is struggling to reverse years of decline that required a bailout to forestall its financial collapse. Nissan, meanwhile, suffered some unexpected setbacks of its own during a weak July – September quarter. The second-largest Japanese maker last week downgraded its earnings forecast for the current fiscal year and shook up its top management ranks.
The Renault-Nissan alliance dates back to 1998 when the French automaker invested about $6 billion to keep the Japanese manufacturer from failing. Renault currently owns 43.4% of Nissan, which, in turn, has a 15% stake in the French maker.
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A spokesperson for their alliance noted there are no plans to take a financial stake in Mitsubishi. The smaller Japanese automaker has been trying to reverse years of decline – and the end of a long relationship with Chrysler. Mitsubishi also saw its ties to Chrysler’s former partner Daimler AG fall apart.