Nissan and Renault have announced a new initiative to build electric cars together after years of simmering discord between the two companies. Having your business partner arrested is not usually a hopeful sign for the future of your enterprise. In theory, Nissan and Renault were partners in a business popularly known as the Alliance. Somewhere along the line, Mitsubishi got brought into the Alliance as well.
But after Nissan induced the Japanese government to imprison Carlos Ghosn in 2018 over allegations that he committed numerous financial misdeeds, the relationship between the two companies soured to the point where people in one organization rarely spoke to their counterparts in the other.
This week, officials from all three companies held a joint presentation to announce they have kissed and made up. Going forward, they said they were gearing up to bring 35 new electric car models to market by 2030 as part of a $26 billion dollar investment plan. According to the New York Times, the companies also said they were aiming for significant savings in overall production costs by increasing the number of components their various cars have in common, and to cut battery costs 65% by 2028. It’s nice to have a plan, but this one is light on details about how that decrease in battery costs will come about.
The Alliance, which collectively is the world’s third largest automaker, has little choice but to work more closely together as competitors like Tesla and Volkswagen are leading the way into the electric car future.The combination of the pandemic and the global computer chip shortage has seen sales at Nissan, Renault, and Mitsubishi plummet. “We have gone through, the three companies, a very strong crisis in the past few years, and officially we were not brilliant in terms of competitiveness,” said Jean-Dominique Senard, chairman of the Alliance. The companies have hammered out their differences, he said, putting an end to years of bitter division: “We are demonstrating clearly that our ties are extremely strong, and I think today are in effect unbreakable.”
Even with the new commitment, Nissan has modest goals for EVs in the US market, where it expects electric cars will constitute only 40% of sales in America by 2030. By comparison, Renault says it will sell only electric cars in Europe by that date.
Shared Platforms For Electric Cars
The companies will share 5 dedicated electric car chassis to reduce costs. The CMF-EV platform will serve as the foundation for the Nissan Ariya as well as the Renault Megane E-Tech Electric. The CMF-BEV platform will be used by Nissan for an electric replacement for the Micra as well as the new electric reincarnation of the Renault 5. A third chassis will be for Kei cars — the diminutive vehicles popular in Japan; a fourth will be dedicated to electric vans; and the fifth, designated the CMF-AEV, will form the basis for the Dacia Spring city car, according to Autocar.
The CMF-BEV chassis is said to reduce costs by 33% and power consumption by 10% compared with the current platform used for the Renault Zoe. It is set to be launched in 2024 and will provide a maximum range of 250 miles. The Alliance expects it to eventually serve as the basis for 250,000 vehicles annually for the Nissan, Renault, and Alpine brands.
Nissan chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta says the replacement for the Micra “will be designed by Nissan and engineered and manufactured by Renault using our new common platform, maximizing the use of our Alliance assets while maintaining its Nissan-ness. Nissan said the shared platform “enables the companies to maintain unique styling for their respective products, as demonstrated by the design preview of the new vehicle.”
The three companies have little choice but to put their differences behind them if they hope to compete in the brave new world of electric cars. None of them have the financial resources to make the transition to electric cars on their own — a problem that affects many smaller traditional car companies around the world. Despite all the happy talk from the companies this week, there are those who wonder if the Alliance or its component parts will even exist 5 years from now. The coming changes in the transportation sector will spur more disruption in auto manufacturing than at any time since Henry Ford built his first assembly line.