By Paulo Soares de Oliveira, Automotive News Europe
DETROIT - Renault may start building cars for its alliance partner Nissan in France soon
The first move of this kind could be producing the replacement for the Nissan Primera - currently made in Sunderland, England, - in Sandouville, France, alongside the Renault Laguna. This could happen in late 2007 or early 2008.
â€œIf we decide to build the next Primera generation in Sandouville sharing its platform with the Renault Laguna, we can save E100 million in development and production,â€ said Nissan Executive Vice President Patrick Pelata at the Detroit auto show.
Nissan officials insist no decision has been made, but PwC/AutoFacts market analyst Calum MacRae said: â€œEconomically, that would make sense.â€
The two companies would have to finalize any manufacturing agreement at least 18 months before the start of production to source the necessary tooling in time.
The development would be a logical extension of the platform and component sharing embarked on by the two groups after the formation of their alliance in 1999. Renault owns 44 percent of Nissan.
Common manufacturing would deepen the alliance considerably. Industrial collaboration is currently limited to one partner assembling existing models for the other.
As the center of production for the Laguna, Espace and Vel Satis, Sandouville already has considerable flexibility. All three models have common chassis and drivelines. Sandouville also has the capacity to build an additional 50,000 or so Nissans.
Nissan is not expected to directly replace the Primera with another sedan and wagon. Because the Primera is losing share in the declining upper-medium segment, Nissan is likely to create more distinctive niche models to replace it.
Sunderland's role appears to be evolving as a producer of smaller models. It makes the Nissan Micra, Micra C+C, Almera and Primera.
Nissan recently confirmed that the Micra-based Tone small minivan will be added in January 2006.
Nissan is expected to confirm soon that Sunderland will also make the production version of last year's Qashqai SUV concept. The model has been described as a â€œmini Murano.â€
- Richard Feast contributed