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.
Daimler 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?