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Tokyo show: Alliance still mulling pick-up plans

Up in the air: Future versions of Mitsubishi’s Triton could share their underpinnings with the next Nissan Navara, but there is a chance they could use separate platforms.

Sharing Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi pick-up makes sense, but decision not finalised

Mitsubishi logo30 Oct 2017

By TIM NICHOLSON in TOKYO

THE Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance will play to the strengths of each brand when developing new light-commercial vehicles, but it is unclear if the group will share a platform for its next-gen mid-size pick-up or offer separate platforms.

Following the Alliance’s acquisition of Mitsubishi in October last year, it was widely believed that the next-generation versions of the Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara and its Renault Alaskan twin would share a light commercial-vehicle (LCV) platform.

However, Renault-Nissan senior vice-president LCV business unit Ashwani Gupta appeared to suggest there could be value in the company using more than one platform for its mid-size pick-up, depending on individual market requirements.

“Maybe in some markets, a narrow bed is more prominent,” he told Australian journalists at an event following the Tokyo motor show last week.

“And maybe we will select that platform for that market. In some markets maybe a wider platform, maybe we will select other company’s platform for that market. It’s too early to say.”

When asked if Mitsubishi would lead the development of the Alliance’s next-gen pick-up, Mr Gupta said that the company had yet to finalise details of the next range of pick-ups.

“We have not even decided that we will have the common platform. It is too early to say who will lead. We are working on the convergence and the common platforms for the LCV line-up.”

Mr Gupta added the company would play to the strengths of each brand when developing new product to ensure the best end result.

“The thing is, we never do the job sharing based on company. We do the job sharing based on the competency. Renault is competent in vans, Nissan/Mitsubishi are competent in frame (chassis).

“So Renault definitely takes the lead on the van and Nissan/Mitsubishi takes the lead on frame. Again on Nissan/Mitsubishi we need to find the markets and the customers where Mitsubishi is strong and where Nissan is strong and accordingly the job sharing will be done.” As part of its three-year 2020 strategic plan announced earlier this month, Mitsubishi said it would strengthen its SUV and pick-up portfolios, but did not give details on whether that meant more new pick-up models or simply updates to the existing Triton range.

When asked to clarify the statement in the strategic plan, Mitsubishi Motors Company head of global product planning Vincent Cobee said it meant further investment in the Triton as well as an acknowledgement from the Alliance of Mitsubishi’s strength in the pick-up market.

“I think what it means is probably we have the most successful pick-up of the Alliance, first,” he told Australian journalists at the Tokyo motor show. “And behind this statement … it’s a clear point that Mitsubishi has many things to bring to the Alliance. Its presence in ASEAN, its knowledge of four-wheel-drive system, its credibility in pick-ups.

“It also means that when we look at our investment strategy for the next three-to-four years, making sure that our pick-up becomes a preferential choice and has features and capabilities that are recognised around the world is fundamental. So we will invest in our pick-up in the next years because that is one of our most emblematic and meaningful cars. We will invest in it. You will see things happening on this pick-up as part of a plan.”

Mitsubishi Motors Corporation chief operating officer Trevor Mann said that brand’s strength in the ASEAN and Oceania region, as well as the engineering expertise used in the Triton were “very interesting to the Alliance”.

“I think that the way the Triton was engineered was the correct way – from the bottom up instead of the top down,” he told journalists at the Tokyo show. “It’s always easier to add things than to take them away.

“And sometimes when you get big organisations they look at the big picture and they say ‘it needs to be suitable for this market and it needs to be suitable for this market...’ so you start with this monster and say ‘well, certainly within my market I can’t afford that’ so we take it off, and take it off.

“What Mitsubishi have done is they have engineered their cars from ‘this is the minimum, what do we need to do to make it suitable for this market?’ You add it on.

“So you’re only paying for the bits you’re adding on, when you start with the other end, you can’t always take the bits off – that’s an oversimplified explanation but I think that’s one of our strengths.”

Mr Mann added that while it made sense to use a common platform for the next-generation Triton, it would depend on how the vehicle is positioned.

“At the moment, we compete very well against other pick-ups in the segment and will continue to refresh our vehicle.

“Going forward, would we have a common platform for pick-ups in the Alliance? Why not?“That’s something we would always work towards, but at the moment, the Triton is one of our pillars.”

He added that given the company had announced that some models such as the Nissan X-Trail and Mitsubishi Outlander would share a platform in the future, it was a logical step to investigate whether other models within the Alliance should be shared, including the pick-ups.

“In an ideal world, every new platform generation, all Alliance partners would join … but you’ve got to look after your customers, you’ve got to look after your vehicles, you’ve got to make sure they aren’t too aged and you’ve got to make sure you are doing the right thing for the brand – plus or minus a little bit to try and make it work from an Alliance point of view and obviously an investment point of view for your individual company,” he said.

“So seeing (sharing) the C-platform for (Nissan) X-Trail and Outlander was an optimal timing, yes why not?“Other ones we’re working on and trying to fix up is B-platform and obviously we’re in discussions on a pick-up platform.”

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