Nissan-Renault Partners with Daimler

2009 smart fortwo

It’s not a marriage made in heaven; it’s a marriage of convenience. And finally, it will be a marriage to produce a new brood (not breed) of cars and trucks for the world.

Daimler AG and Nissan-Renault are joining forces to develop new engines, small cars, and small vans. In particular, look for a new version of the smart fortwo (above) and a new smart four-seater that may come to the U.S.

2008 Renault TwingoDaimler CEO Dieter Zetsche admitted it was not “economically feasible” for Daimler to keep the smart car in production (sales have been pretty dismal), but with new engines, including a diesel, and a rework, maybe the car will take off. I still think it makes sense as a good city car (I see several running around in Oaxaca), but for the highway, no.

New smart models will launch in 2013, and there will be electric versions built in France and Slovenia. Ditto for the Renault Twingo cars (right), which have been successful in Europe for some years. Mercedes needs to get a leg up in small cars like this, and the new alliance will help them greatly, especially in small-engine technology.

There is also talk (Automotive News, subscription) that Renault will build a commercial van with a Mercedes-Benz badge. The idea is to give GM and Ford a run for their money in a market they have traditionally dominated.

The two firms have made a smart (no pun intended) move. It’s all about the emerging markets for cars, according to Carlos Ghosn, Nissan-Renault CEO:

If you look at the last crisis—2008, 2009—the car makers that went through this the best were the ones with the most exposure to China, the most exposure to small cars. There will be another crisis. We don’t know when. The lesson from this is… you better do it with a lot of friends.

We all remember the disastrous marriage of Chrysler and Daimler a few years back. Does this one have a better chance of success?

—jgoods

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Used smart fortwo

3 Comments

  1. Just think of what the kids would look like!!!

    Micro cars seem to be pretty hard to package, and I think the Smart is one of the nicer looking ones, especially considering that it goes back to the original hybrid show car I remember from 2002 or so. The Twingo is pretty plain, as is the little Fiat. Not everyone wants a micro that looks like it was designed for a 19 year old boy, though.

  2. I’d rather see a John Daly/Roeseann Barr marriage than this one. If the Smart knockoff is an indication of things to come, this marriage has no reason to happen. That knockoff is just plain fugly, even worse than the hideous Juke you showed last week. Do these guys have a design school??

  3. Chrysler was likely the weak link in that partnership with Daimler – this new arrangement certainly sounds like it has lots more potential.

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