TOKYO - DaimlerChrysler is discussing the possibility of giving Mitsubishi Motors Corp. the lead engineering role for a line of light commercial vehicles that would be sold under both the Mitsubishi and Mercedes badges.
Unveiling a redesigned version of the Canter light commercial vehicle here last week, Takashi Usami, COO of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck & Bus, said talks with DaimlerChrysler "are proceeding in the direction" of having the Canter become the basis for the replacement for the Mercedes Vario or Sprinter truck.
A DaimerChrysler commercial-vehicles spokesman in Stuttgart said nothing has been decided, but confirmed that "intense discussions" continue.
"We are looking at everything. Everything is on the table," he said.
A deal would mark the first time that Mercedes has sold a badge-engineered vehicle as its own, and underscores how DaimlerChrysler continues to seek synergies from its various brands and partnerships. DaimlerChrysler owns 37 percent of Mitsubishi.
In addition, the two companies have begun laying out conditions under which Freightliner dealers in North America would sell Mitsubishi Fuso trucks.
The sales arrangement has not received approval. But the two sides have agreed that the same vehicle would not be sold under the same badge at two dealerships within a 10-mile radius.
Both are urban delivery trucks, offered as panel vans or flatbed trucks.
The overlap in those vehicles comes mainly in the Japanese, European and Asian markets. In the United States, Usami said, "the pickup is our competitor" to the Canter.
The difficulty in coordinating engineering on the two vehicles lies in their different product cycle.
The latest Canter, which is the eighth generation, has just been re-engineered for the first time in almost nine years. An eight- or nine-year life cycle is typical for that segment. The Vario was last redesigned in 1996.
"If there's a four-year difference in model cycles, it's very difficult to adjust and close the gap," Usami said.
If the two sides agree to coordinate their products in the 1.5- to 2.0-ton commercial truck segment, Mitsubishi would be the logical choice to be the lead engineer by virtue of its higher volumes.
Mitsubishi expects to sell about 3,700 Canters a month, or a little more than 44,000 a year. Sales of the Vario in recent years have totaled less than 20,000 a year.