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Alliance members to remain distinct

Helping hand: The Mitsubishi Triton (below) has already had an influence on the development of the Nissan Navara (left) and other Alliance pick-up models.

Separate brands to continue under Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance: O’Hara

10 Jul 2018

THE Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s 10 brands will continue to have separate model line-ups and retail presences, despite the ongoing convergence of their back-office operations, according to one of its high-ranking executives.
Speaking to journalists this week at the official opening of the world-first Alliance National Distribution Centre in Truganina, Victoria, Alliance senior vice-president of aftersales Kent O’Hara stressed that each members’ brands will continue to remain distinct, particularly from a product perspective.
However, the addition of Mitsubishi is already adding a new dimension to product development, with Nissan taking on-board “good learnings” in key areas, such as cost and efficiencies, with the development of the new-generation Navara, which is all but certain to use the same platform as the next Triton.
“It’s critically important that each of the brands remain unique, because if you talk to the customers of the respective brands and vehicles, they have a very unique and very different view and appreciation for each of those brands. You never want to do anything that alters that,” Mr O'Hara said.
“What we want to do is bring another level of sophistication and efficiency and performance that then allows them to more uniquely craft their value propositions, whether it be in the product that they sell or whether it be in the services they provide to their customers through the network.
“We want to make sure that these ‘back-office things’ allow … the highest level of efficiency and performance capability, but then also have the agility and flexibility to allow them to uniquely tailor (the product) for what the brand wants to offer.
“Not everything that we have the capability of is at the same level of importance to the customer at this point in time. So, given that flexibility to the brands, the customer is another key piece to that.
“That’s why digitalisation, IT tools, those agile platforms are a very important part, not only of all parts of the business, but of the aftersales side, as well.”
When questioned how difficult it would be to keep the brands distinct when Alliance Common Modular Family (CMF) platforms will soon underpin the vast majority of their vehicles sold, Mr O’Hara explained it will be determined by the technologies and designs that each brand decides to use.
“It comes down to the product teams. It’s one thing having technologies available, (but) what technologies are (being) used and what portions … to what level,” he said.
“The other thing it comes down to is the design and integration into the vehicles. You look across the three brands, even those that are on common platforms today, they don’t look very similar. They’re very different.
“So, the parts that are common today, you don’t know that they’re common. Obviously, as a key part of doing the well is having the parts that aren’t visible or aren’t viewed to be the ones that the customers see and identify with are the ones that still remain unique but have the capabilities that the customers want.”
As previously reported, the Alliance’s mid-term plan projects that nine of the 14 million passenger and light-commercial vehicles sold in 2022 are set to be built on four common platforms, while 75 per cent of these total units will feature shared powertrains.
While Mitsubishi Motors Corporation only officially joined the Alliance in October 2016, it has already contributed to the development of future Alliance models, particularly pick-ups, according to Mr O’Hara.
“One of things that’s been very helpful is that there’s been enough specific examples early into Mitsubishi’s joining where frankly they’re doing things at a better level of efficiency and cost level than we are, even though they’re the smallest,” he said.
“We’ve learned some stuff from Mitsubishi in just looking at the pick-ups, being the Navara and Triton. Some of the things we would’ve thought, because of our global volume on Navara, that in all aspects that there would be an advantage, but we’ve learnt some very insightful things on the Triton pick-up that has already been useful back into the Nissan activities on figuring out some different improvements to improve the cost and design of certain items that we have.
“I can’t share too many details around that, but on a global basis, there are some good learnings when we look at how products are being developed, because Mitsubishi hasn’t had all the resources available to them, they’ve had to do things a little bit differently, and also how they utilise suppliers to do certain key activities for them is also useful for us to learn.”
This suggests that the next-generation Navara and Triton are likely to be co-developed on the same platform, potentially alongside new versions of the Renault Alaskan and Mercedes-Benz X-Class, which currently feature the Nissan’s underpinnings.
Asked if all back-office operations of the Alliance’s three members, such as their finance departments, will eventually converge, Mr O’Hara highlighted key opportunities for them across all areas.
“Back office, whether it be systems or capabilities of financing in certain parts of the world, Nissan sales financing does it for Renault and Mitsubishi, other parts of the world Renault RCI (Bank and Services) does the financing for the dealer network for Nissan. And we’ll have conversations about supporting Mitsubishi in other markets where they don’t have sales financing,” he said.
“We do believe that sales finance and aftersales are very critical parts of supporting the sales and marketing activity of the vehicles, so IT platforms, IT systems, but also offering the right tools and services to the dealer networks of all three of the companies is an important part of having a really strong Alliance.”

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