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Nissan and Mitsubishi ramp up joint models

Truck plans: Mitsubishi’s Triton one-tonne truck might be built on a platform shared with Nissan’s Navara in its next generation.

Navara and Triton set to merge as Nissan and Mitsubishi get further into bed

15 Dec 2010

NISSAN and Mitsubishi are discussing joint development of a new Thai-built one-tonne ute, meaning future Navaras and Tritons are likely to come off a shared platform.

The proposed mutual ute – announced by the two companies in Japan yesterday in a range of co-operative model plans – would mimic similar arrangements between General Motors and Isuzu and Ford and Mazda.

In the meantime, production of Nissan’s current Navara is set to shift from Nissan’s own plant in Thailand to Mitsubishi’s factory in that country, coming down the same production line as the Triton.

In a separate move, Nissan will supply a rebadged van to Mitsubishi, probably to replace the ancient Express, while in return, Mitsubishi will supply an SUV for Nissan to sell in the Middle East.

The two companies also will jointly develop a new mini car that could provide the basis for a next-generation i-MiEV, and are discussing a proposal for Nissan to provide upper-end models to Mitsubishi Motors for Japanese customers.

No time frame for the moves have been announced, so it is unclear if any of the shared models will be in showrooms any time soon.

Nissan and Mitsubishi, which already share mini cars and commercial vehicles in Japan, say the latest deals will not affect their relationships with existing partners. The Nissan-Renault Alliance shares technology with Daimler, while Mitsubishi Motors is in bed with Renault rival PSA Peugeot Citroen, sharing SUVs and electric cars.

21 center imageFrom top: Nissan Navara D40, Nissan Navara D22, Nissan NV200 and Mitsubishi i-MiEV.

Currently, Nissan sells two versions of its Navara in Australia – the flagship D40 Navara ST-X imported from Spain and the ageing D22 workhorse made in Thailand.

The D22 dates from 1997, and while it has been given periodic facelifts to lift its performance and presentation, its main advantage over newer rivals such as the top-selling HiLux and Triton is its price.

The newer and more upmarket D40 – a favourite with weekend warriors who want the comforts of a car, the utility of a truck and the 4x4 performance of an SUV– was launched five years ago.

It too has been given upgrades, including a heart transplant courtesy of a new class-leading 170kW/550Nm V6 diesel engine in recent weeks.

The Triton is younger than both of the Nissan light trucks, having been on the market since mid 2006.

But as an all-new Triton is unlikely for at least three years, any jointly developed replacement is probably some years away. If it eventuates, its primary goal would be to cut costs through sharing the development burden and joint production.

Ford and Mazda pool resources on their Ford Ranger/Mazda BT-50 one tonners, while GM and Isuzu do the same on their Colorado/D-Max ute.

The Nissan-Mitsubishi statement on the model-sharing arrangements says Nissan will provide a light van/wagon to Mitsubishi for the Japanese market.

Although there was no hint at what that might be, Nissan recently launched its new NV200 van at the IAA Light Commercial Vehicle Show in Hannover, Germany.

Also known as the Vanette, the NV200 is a Toyota HiAce competitor that is scheduled for launch in Australia in 2011.

Under Mitsubishi badges, it would be a handy replacement for the Mitsubishi Express, should the arrangement extend beyond Japan. Like Nissan’s D22 Navara, the Express is one of the oldest vehicles on the Australian market.

In their official joint statement, Nissan and Mitsubishi said they had agreed to study new opportunities to generate additional synergies.

“The cooperation agreement between Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors will be complementary to any agreements the two parties have already established with other partners,” they said.

Nissan president and CEO Carlos Ghosn said the agreement supported Nissan’s expansion in emerging markets, met immediate capacity needs overseas and enabled it to grow its mini car business in Japan.

“Our relationship with Mitsubishi demonstrates the ability of the Renault-Nissan Alliance – with its network of global partnerships – to constantly evolve and create new win-win relationships with other companies in function of specific needs and shared objectives," he said.

Mitsubishi Motors president Osamu Masuko said: “This agreement to expand our business cooperation with Nissan is founded on our good business relationship since 2003, through several OEM (original equipment manufacturer) agreements of mini cars and commercial vehicles.

“I believe that the expansion of our OEM agreement will complement each others' regional characteristics and product lineup, and the one-ton pickup and mini car projects will be the best solution to strengthen each others' competitiveness."

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