Nissan, Renault Getting Closer

May 29, 2009

The long-distance marriage between Nissan and Renault will get a little warmer, as a result of the downturn in worldwide automotive sales.

As a result, drivers and car shoppers could see more vehicles for sale in America, that share much more in common with the vehicles Renault and Nissan sell in other countries.

Between the Japanese automaker and the French automaker, CEO Carlos Ghosn says $2 billion in potential savings has been identified. What that means, in all likelihood, is more cars and crossovers for both companies will share platforms, engines and other parts.

While Renault specializes in small cars and diesels and minivans, Nissan's strengths are its rear-drive sportscars like the 2009 Nissan 370Z, and its range of Infiniti sedans and crossovers like the 2009 Infiniti G37 Convertible. Its Nissan Altima is a leader in the mid-size segment.

When Nissan and Renault joined efforts in 1999, then-Renault chief Ghosn envisioned a broad product alliance that would benefit both companies. To date, that sharing hasn't led to much in the United States--limited mostly to the Nissan Versa hatchbacks and a shared platform for the Nissan Sentra/Rogue with compact Renaults.

Could the Nissan Altima end up sharing more with the Renault Megane? Will Renault end up selling full-size pickups--and Nissan, a version of the Renault Espace minivan? Those are less likely than increased sharing of engines and transmissions and more small cars, but in the current automotive market, all options are on the table.

"We have to move faster. Seeking synergies is no longer optional, but mandatory," Ghosn told the Associated Press.

Renault holds a 44-percent stake in Nissan, while Nissan has a 15-percent stake in Renault. Their alliance, minted in 1999, is widely seen as a pattern for the forthcoming union of Chrysler and Fiat.
[Wall Street Journal]

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