Mitsubishi to sell Renault-based midsized car in USTue, 05 Nov 2013
Mitsubishi Motors Corp. plans to sell a Renault-based midsized car in the United States under a new strategic tie-up between Mitsubishi and the Renault-Nissan alliance. The car will be the first of two Renault-based sedans sold by Mitsubishi under a product and technology exchange announced by the companies today. The cooperation also includes joint development of an electric car and a new compact car, both to be sold globally.
Renault-Nissan and Mitsubishi will "explore several new projects covering shared products, technologies and manufacturing capacity," the three automakers said in a joint statement.
The larger sedan, which was not named by the companies, will made at a Renault-Samsung plant in Busan, South Korea. The car also will be sold in Canada.
The second sedan would compete in the global compact segment. "The manufacturing location for this product is under discussion," the statement said.
The companies did not announce the timing of either launch. Mitsubishi spokeswoman Namie Koketsu said the introduction schedule is being discussed. She also could not say if the compact sedan would be sold in the United States. "Nissan and Mitsubishi have jointly benefited from several collaborations in the past," Carlos Ghosn, CEO of both Renault and Nissan, said in the statement. "I welcome the direction being taken toward this broader cooperation, creating new opportunities for Renault in addition."
The deal will mark the rare arrival of a Renault-based vehicle in the United States and helps bolster a beleaguered Mitsubishi lineup that is short on new vehicles, especially sedans. Renault left the United States in 1987 after it sold its interest in American Motors to Chrysler Corp. The agreement builds upon several product exchanges between Renault-Nissan and Mitsubishi, as the companies seek partners to maximize plant capacity and cut costs through volume.
Nissans for U.S.
Renault-Nissan have been looking for ways to lift output at the alliance's underutilized South Korean factory. The plant is already scheduled to make Nissan vehicles for the U.S. market next year, and the Mitsubishi supply will add more work. Mitsubishi, which will announce a new mid-term business plan on Wednesday, is expected to seek more such deals to flesh out a thin global portfolio as the company's recovery gathers speed. It is unclear whether the Mitsubishi sedans would be based on existing Renault Samsung vehicles or newly developed ones.
Renault Samsung spokeswoman Jang Yoonseon said the companies are still discussing what Renault cars will be used as the base. Launch timing is also undecided, she said.
In South Korea, the SM7 sits atop the Renault Samsung lineup as its top-tier sedan. The SM5 is its mid-sized counterpart. The SM7 is sold as the Renault Talisman in other markets, while the SM5 is sold as the Renault Latitude. The plant also makes two other vehicles, the SM3 small sedan and QM5 crossover.
Renault Samsung has only one assembly plant, in the southeastern port city of Busan. It has annual capacity of 300,000 units, but churned out only 130,000 last year, Jang said. Its South Korean sales totaled around 60,000 in 2012. To soak up more of that capacity, Ghosn has moved some output of the Nissan Rogue crossover to the plant. It will enter production there in the second half of 2014 with target output of 80,000 vehicles, mostly earmarked for the Untied States.
As part of the latest deal, the companies also aim to share technologies and "product assets" related to electric vehicles and recent product platforms. Nissan is the global market leader in electric vehicles, with its Leaf EV, while Mitsubishi, which markets its own EV called the i, has made EVs and hybrids a central pillar of the company's mid-term business plan.
Mitsubishi and Nissan will further cooperate to develop a new small car to be sold globally. An electric version of the car is also planned. Koketsu could not say if they would be offered in North America. That car will be based on a jointly developed platform for Japan's minicar segment, a type of car restricted in overall dimensions and restricted to engines no bigger than 0.66-liters.
Mitsubishi and Nissan launched a minicar joint venture in 2011. Its first products are the Nissan Dayz and Mitsubishi eK wagon minicars, both of which went on sale this year in Japan. "The new opportunities could be described as evidence that the ongoing collaborative projects between Mitsubishi Motors and Nissan have brought positive results," Mitsubishi President Osamu Masuko said in the statement. "Mitsubishi Motors hopes that any new collaborative projects with the Renault-Nissan alliance would bring us further merits."
In Japan, Mitsubishi already sources two premium sedans from Nissan. The Mitsubishi Proudia is a rebadged Nissan Fuga, which is sold in the United States as the Infiniti M. Another car, called the Dignity, is based on the Nissan Cima.
(Mitsubishi to sell Renault-based mid-sized car in U.S. originally appeared in Automotive News)
By Hans Greimel