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COMMENT: He ain’t heavy, he’s my alliance partner

BY MEGAN LAMPINEN. Mercedes-Benz's decision to seek help from alliance partners on its new pick-up is more a sign of strength than of weakness

When Mercedes-Benz announced plans for its first pick-up model mere days ahead of April Fool’s Day, the initial focus was on proving it was no joke. Details were scarce, sparking speculation on whether or not the German OEM would tap into its alliance with Renault and Nissan for the new project. After all, Nissan is already the second largest manufacturer of one-tonne pick-ups in the world and has been active in the segment for more than 80 years. It is already working with Renault on a new pick-up for the French brand based on its own NP300 model.

Mercedes wants in on those synergies as well and as it turns out, those synergies could be plentiful. Having enjoyed more than a week in the spotlight by itself, it has now confirmed that it too will tap the NP300 as the basis for its first segment offering. So, it will essentially be a Nissan truck with a Mercedes badge. Of course, there’s the usual stipulation that its own model will include enough upscale features to sufficiently set it apart from its Renault and Nissan siblings.

Mercedes is also looking to its three-way partnership to help with the production side of things – its version of the pick-up will be built alongside the sister models at Renault’s plant in Cordoba, Argentina and at the Nissan plant in Barcelona, Spain.

Clearly, Mercedes is looking to prove itself first before tackling what must be viewed as the daunting US market with its long-established players

As revealed initially, Mercedes’ pick-up is not slated for a North American launch, but rather will be limited to Europe, Australia, South Africa and Latin America. Clearly, Mercedes is looking to prove itself first before tackling what must be viewed as the daunting US market with its long-established players. And in approaching any daunting task, it helps to have a partner’s support – whether that comes in the form of platform sharing or production arrangements.

It’s a win for Renault and Nissan as well, with the cost of investment in Cordoba now shared and production capacity at Barcelona further optimised. When Daimler, Renault and Nissan began cooperating five years ago, they began small scale with three projects and a European focus. Over the next few years, they branched out to cover Asia and the Americas as well and quadrupled the number of projects. Commenting last year on the benefits of the partnership, Dieter Zetsche observed, “We partner not because we have to but because we want to.” And providing everyone shares nicely, there’s a lot of money to be made.

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The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.

Megan Lampinen is Business Editor at Automotive World.

The Automotive World Comment column is open to automotive industry decision makers and influencers. If you would like to contribute a Comment article, please contact editorial@automotiveworld.com.

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