Nissan and Renault Divvy Up Production Responsibilities

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Nissan and Renault opted against a full merger on Wednesday, but neither side seemed to feel now was the time to disband the alliance and see how they might fare as a solo act. Every member of the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance took time to address financial concerns last year, encouraging further product integration as a cost-mitigation strategy. Despite Nissan shareholders and staff clearly losing interest in the French-led confederation, the brand seems to understand that leaning upon its allies might be the only way to get through a period of increasing economic uncertainty.

Mitsubishi slashed its 2020 financial forecasts ahead of the coronavirus pandemic by over $500 million while the other two issued numerous profit warnings in the latter half of 2019. Now the world is exiting lockdowns and assessing the economic damage they caused. Obviously, this is not the time to be burning bridges, even if some alliance partners aren’t enthralled with what’s probably waiting on the other side.

The new plan involves sharing the load by having each manufacturer lead development for segments and regions that play into their strengths. This leaves Renault predictably fronting things in Europe and Russia as it focuses on small cars. Meanwhile, Nissan will continue to be the go-to brand for China, Japan, and North America. It’ll also be put in charge of larger automobiles, leaving Mitsubishi to work on hybrid powertrains and budget products aimed at the developing world. On the mobility front, Nissan will be tasked with the continued development of autonomous driving as Renault focuses on Android-based connected car technologies.

Ideally, the group would like to see the strategy tamp down group development costs by at least 40 percent.

Automakers will also be enacting additional cost-cutting measures on an individual basis, according to the Financial Times. Both Renault and Nissan were in the midst of restructuring before the coronavirus pandemic shook the planet’s finances, and both plan on addressing the issue later this week.

From FT:

Renault is set to unveil €2bn in cost cuts on Friday, which could include the closure of plants in France and the loss of 5,000 jobs, mostly through staff attrition, by 2024.

Nissan is also expected to disclose a similar $2.8bn cost-cutting programme on Thursday as it seeks to weather its first net loss in 11 years.

While the companies already make close to half of their cars on shared bases, known as platforms, they will now begin sharing top halves of the models to cut costs.

Half of the new models will be developed using this system by 2025, with plans for 80 per cent of vehicles made on common platforms by 2024, resulting in a fall of a fifth in the overall range of models sold by the businesses.

Reuters reported that, in Brazil, the new approach would force the alliance to go from assembling six models on four separate platforms to seven models riding on just one common architecture. Other regions will see similar changes, though perhaps not to the same degree.

Meanwhile, all sides have walked back the merger talk. Despite France being rather insistent that Carlos Ghosn’s dream be realized with a full merger, Nissan no longer shares this vision. Trust within the alliance has broken down, with the most glaring incident being Ghosn’s 2018 arrest over alleged financial crimes — which seems to have been facilitated (at least in part) by Nissan officials. Rather than achieving full integration, group leadership began to fracture and seemed to be making grabs for power while Japanese investors grew resentful of the increasing European influence.

Mr. Ghosn could be seen as a casualty of a corporate war run amok, but he played a big role in starting it, spending his final years as an automotive executive attempting to push through a merger that Japan didn’t appreciate.

Fortunately, that contentious matter has been taken off the table for the time being. Also abandoned is Ghosn’s old strategy of chasing down sales at every opportunity. “The alliance’s new model focuses on efficiency and competitiveness rather than on volumes,” Senard explained. “Our aim is to increase the competitiveness and profitability of each of the three companies.”

[Image: meowKa/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • 3SpeedAutomatic 3SpeedAutomatic on May 28, 2020

    The above sounds like a loose alliance, but to succeed in the long run, the group needs one strong boss to tie the pieces together. Just like in sports, there is just one coach and his word is the rule. If the group cannot coordinate, each will eventually fail under the burden of every tightening emission rules, autonomous driving development cost, and EV capital costs. Sounds crazy, but maybe a GM format would be the salvation. Each brand addressing the needs of specific markets and each assigned a specific area of development while gaining economy of scale. Look at the PSA and FCA merger. Not done for mutual admiration, but for economic survival. Without a master plan, each will be picked off like SAAB (lack of economy of scale); British Leyland (starved for development capital); or GM Europe (declining market share in a very competitive environment). Each sounds like bickering siblings. Its time for a strong father figure to step in and bring discipline under one roof.

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    • 3SpeedAutomatic 3SpeedAutomatic on May 28, 2020

      @Lorenzo I they fail to make a strong alliance, now is the time to bail out. However, Renault, Nissan, or Mitsubishi are fools if they think they can survive alone. And just an Asian alliances or Euro alliance won’t cut it. And China is not the silver bullet it once was. Volume is the savior considering all the governmental requirements that will require tremendous quantities of capital and resources. Now is the time to find dance partners to share the burden of EV, emission regulations, and autonomous driving development. If not, they fall to the way side of the road.

  • WallMeerkat WallMeerkat on May 28, 2020

    I don't understand why they can't make a success of this like VW group. In Europe VW group has 4 core brands, and for example, for the C segment on the MQB platform they'll spin off a number of vehicles SEAT Leon - a sporty looking hatchback VW Golf - the bread and butter hatchback of the VW brand Skoda Octavia - a slightly larger budget family fastback Audi A3 - premium hatchback and small sedan I guess they tried to do an Audi and introduce Infiniti to Europe, but it didn't work out thanks to zero marketing and an uninspired range.

  • Grg I am not sure that this would hold up in snow country. It used to be that people in snow country would not be caught dead in a white car. Now that white cars have become popular in the north, I can't tell you how many times I have seen white cars driving in the snow without lights. Almost all cars are less visible in a snow storm, or for that matter, rain storm, without lights. White ones become nearly invisible.
  • Douglas I have a 2018 BMW 740e PHEV, and love it. It has a modest electric only range compared to newer PHEV's (about 18 miles), but that gets me to the office and back each day. It has a small gas tank to make room for the battery, so only holds about 11 gallons. I easily go 600 or more miles per tank. I love it, and being able to take long road trips without having to plug in (it just operates like a regular Hybrid if you never plug it in). It charges in 75 minutes in my garage from a Level 2 charger I bought on Amazon for $350. Had an electrician add a dryer outlet beside the breaker box. It's the best of both worlds and I would definitely want a PHEV for my next car. 104,000 miles and ZERO problems with the powertrain components (so far).
  • Panther Platform I had a 98 Lincoln Mark VIII so I have a soft spot for this. The Mark VIII styling was not appreciated by all.
  • Grant P Farrell Oh no the dealership kept the car for hours on two occasions before giving me a loaner for two months while they supposedly replaced the ECU. I hate cords so I've only connected it wirelessly. Next I'm gonna try using the usb-c in the center console and leaving the phone plugged in in there, not as convenient but it might lower my blood pressure.
  • Jeff Tiny electrical parts are ruining today's cars! What can they ...
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