Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. want to increase their combined sales by 500,000 units by 2005, half with new models and half from cross-badging.
The first jointly developed model is not expected before 2002 or 2003, but the partners expect to begin simple rebadging of each other's vehicles as early as next year.
Renault may sell its radically shaped Avantime 'coupespace' in the United States with an Infiniti luxury-car nameplate. It already has decided to rebadge the successor to the Nissan Terrano sport-utility in Europe.
Meanwhile, Nissan likely will badge Renault's Kangoo light van, Twingo mini and Clio sedan for sale in Asia and Japan.
The companies' products largely overlap, except in the upper-range and light-truck segment, where Nissan outclasses Renault.
'We are both generalist carmakers, but very different,' said Georges Douin, Renault executive vice president in charge of product planning and international operations. 'In Europe, Renault and Nissan have a quite similar product mix. In the United States and Japan, Nissan's product mix is higher than in Europe.'
RENAULT'S U.S. RETURN?
Renault has been out of the U.S. market since it sold American Motors to Chrysler Corp. in 1987. But rebadging could provide a way to return quickly.
'We could have Renault products sold under the Nissan brand or through the Infiniti network, such as the Avantime,' Douin said.
The Avantime debuted as a concept car at the Geneva auto show last month. Based on Renault's Espace minivan, it combines elements of a sporty coupe and a minivan. Renault will launch a production version in Europe next year,
Together, Renault and Nissan aim to lift sales from 4.8 million vehicles in 1998 to 5.3 million in 2005, raising combined global market share from 9.2 percent (4.9 percent for Nissan; 4.3 percent for Renault) to 10 percent.
Besides the Kangoo, Twingo and Clio sedan, Nissan also could rebadge the future '$6,000 car' that Renault is studying for emerging markets. The car would be made first by Dacia in Romania and later in Brazil. Renault is in final negotiations to buy Dacia.
THE SAME BUT DIFFERENT
Renault and Nissan also plan to develop cars together. The Clio and Nissan Micra successors, due in 2002-03, will use the same platform.
'The platform will be common, but styling will be clearly different,' said Douin.
He said plans in other segments have not been settled, but there will be more platform sharing.
Currently, Nissan has 26 platforms but has wanted to reduce that number to 10 and eventually four. Renault has eight platforms and also wanted to pare that number to four. Together, the two companies will combine to have 10 platforms by 2010, Schweitzer said.
Each platform most likely will be the design and engineering responsibility of one company rather than a shared development.
Nissan and Renault also plan to build a common range of engine and transmission families. Currently, Renault builds seven families, and Nissan has 20. Under the alliance, that total will be eight.
Renault also will be in charge of adapting Nissan vehicles for the European market, freeing Nissan designers to concentrate on their far larger markets in Japan and North America, Hanawa said.
Key to the platform sharing will be the reduction in the development time for vehicles, which Schweitzer wants to achieve by slashing the number of committees needed to sign off a project.
He noted that the wildly successful Megane Scenic minivan never would have made it to market had it not been fast-tracked around Renault's bureaucracy.
Renault and Nissan also will develop a small diesel engine, while Nissan will provide Renault with CVT and 4x4 transmissions and use some Renault mechanical transmissions.