One sells millions of entry-level hatchbacks every year. The other builds premium saloons. But the blossoming relationship between the Renault-Nissan chief executive and Daimler’s chairman, as they stress, is a meeting of equals.

Carlos Ghosn and Dieter Zetsche is the power couple of today’s car making industry – amid falling western demand, rising competition and pressure to spend big on costly new technologies, carmakers are turning to an increasing array of alliances, from full mergers to informally pooling of resources – pulling former rivals closer in order to save themselves.

“I do not know if this is a marriage, two fiancées or a casual encounter,” says Ghosn, his eyes twinkling, as Zetsche laughs. “[But] there is no limit. There is no taboo.” “This is not just about drinking Bordeaux together, it is about eating together as well.” says Mr. Zetsche, as they swivel on matching white chairs at a press conference.

Mr. Zetsche, with research laboratories full of gas-guzzling V8 engines, needs expertise in small cars and low-emission, compact engines. Mr. Ghosn, who has run Renault-Nissan as one company for more than a decade, could do with some secrets from Stuttgart for his luxury products. The result is an alliance in which the two build sedans, trucks, engines and compact cars together.

Every one of the world’s 24 biggest carmakers by sales operates some form of alliance or joint venture with another large carmaker. Some work with, as many as 10 of their rivals, while many own chunks of each other’s shares.

The approach is not without risk. After all the handshakes and champagne, the car industry has a patchy record for making these marriages work. Failed romances litter the industry but the remnants of shared models, engines and research linger. The scrappy divorces leave a tangled web of co-operation that continues to benefit the separated parties.

Via Financial Times


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