Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi to downgrade Daimler partnership, report says

PARIS — The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance is set to drop a role overseeing ties with Daimler in favor of individual relations with the German automaker, three sources told Reuters, as they try to better manage a partnership that has not met initial hopes.

The shift comes as alliance-level executive Jacques Verdonck, who was in charge of the cooperation with Daimler, retires at the end of the month, the sources familiar with the matter said.

Renault will instead rely on its head of partnerships, Sandra Gomez, while Nissan will do the same with Catherine Perez.

Mitsubishi will also have a person in charge of partnerships, the sources said, adding the bilateral approach was in line with the new “leader-follower” strategy of the alliance. That involves leaning on the strengths of each carmaker in certain areas.

Renault and Daimler declined to comment, while Nissan could not immediately be reached for comment.

The plan marks another shift following the end of the Carlos Ghosn era at the alliance.

The architect of the Franco-Japanese partnership, who also extended the collaboration to Daimler, was arrested on financial misconduct charges in Japan in late 2018, before fleeing to Lebanon in 2019. He denies any wrongdoing.

His exit strained already difficult relations between Nissan and Renault, which are now working to get back on track with cost-saving joint production projects among other steps.

The partnership with Daimler — which owns high-end brand Mercedes-Benz, contrasting with the more accessible models produced by its partner automakers — has also looked in danger of losing steam. Nissan and Renault, both hit by losses, recently sold down their stakes in the German group.

Collaborations on Renault’s Twingo minicar and Daimler’s Smart model are set to end, and some targets for industrial cooperation have been downgraded over the years.

But Daimler still has a factory in Mexico with Nissan, and it also has been exploring the possibility of jointly developing at least one large van with Renault to replace Renault’s joint venture for vans with Opel/Vauxhall. Renault still builds versions of its Kangoo small van for Daimler badged as the Mercedes Citan and Mercedes will launch a passenger version of the new Kangoo called the T-Class next year.

An industry shift towards electric vehicles could yet yield other opportunities, one of the sources said.

“The collaboration with Daimler is at present made up of Renault-Daimler projects, Nissan-Daimler ones and some between the three,” another of the sources said, with yet another saying that the changes reflected a more pragmatic approach.

The alliance dates back to 2010. The cooperation has stalled since Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz decided to ax its slow-selling X-Class pickup. The model shared underpinnings with the Renault Alaskan and alliance partner Nissan’s Navara.

Daimler ended its cooperation with Renault for its Smart brand in 2019. Smart’s minicars, which share technology with their platform sibling, the Renault Twingo Z.E., were built in France but will be moved to China under a joint venture with Zhejian Geely Holding Group, Daimler’s biggest single shareholder.

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