Renault-Nissan Alliance reboot focusing on compact EV platform

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Both Nissan and Renault want to lead a project crucial to their global sales, but that’s not how the new Alliance is supposed to work.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance reboot announced in London on Monday was notable for the obvious rapport between the main architects of the deal: the respective CEOs of the two companies, Luca de Meo at Renault and Makoto Uchida at Nissan.

They laughed and joked about the difficulties and sheer amount of time the two have spent in recent months to stabilise a relationship that nearly capsized under the weight of acrimony following former CEO Carlos Ghosn’s attempt to join the two companies and his subsequent arrest in Japan on misconduct charges. “I probably talked to Luca more than my family,” Uchida said.

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The two came across as competitive pragmatists, ready to do what’s best for their respective companies and hang thoughts about national pride or any other emotion that didn’t have profitability and good corporate governance at their heart. They discussed recent agreements, such as that for Renault to develop and build an electric Nissan Micra replacement at Renault’s ElectriCity plant complex in France alongside the Renault 5 on which it’s based.

The idea under the newly revamped Alliance relationship is that the two play to their differing strengths in markets, technologies and segments and let the other take the lead in areas of accepted weakness. “We have opportunity on projects to actually give responsibility to the other to execute,” de Meo told the crowd of analysts and journalists attending. “We have to design a project-driven organisation rather than mixing it up like a pizza stagioni.”

That’s great for a project like the Micra small car, which isn’t an important sector for Nissan outside Europe. Nissan acknowledged it was ready to dump small cars altogether after production of the current Nissan Micra stopped last year, but was won over by Renault’s pitch. “This proposal came in and we were able to convince our designers and teams it could be an iconic model for Nissan in Europe,” Ashwani Gupta, Nissan chief operating officer, said at the same event.

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But the difficulty comes with the compact segment. Nissan is strong with models like the Nissan Qashqai, and Renault’s Renaulution plan will shift its centre of gravity away from small cars to this bigger segment, where profits are stronger.

Right now, the two companies build C-segment cars on the shared Alliance CMF-C platform for combustion-engined cars – for example, the Qashqai – and the related CMF-EV for electric cars, including the Renault Mégane E-Tech and Nissan Ariya.

However, for cars launched after 2026, the two “would also explore possible collaborations on the next generation of C-segment electric vehicles”, according to the joint press release.

For development of the new platform, de Meo said he wanted to avoid having “four hands on the steering wheel” with instead one company taking responsibility.

Getting it right is crucial. Currently, the CMF-EV platform lacks the commonality that de Meo hopes the new platform will fix. “If you look today at the [Nissan] Leaf, Mégane and Ariya, they use same platform but you have a lot of things that are not the same,” he told Autocar, citing the dashboard screen interface and the differing battery heights as examples. “Maybe next time we can do it closer and have more competitive products.”

The companies have already started thrashing out what each one’s needs are for the platform, but Europe is at the heart of it, according to de Meo. So would Renault be the one to take responsibility for the development? “It makes a lot a sense. Renault has a lot of things needed for a European car. It might be built in our plants,” he said.

But Nissan also claims to have the knowledge required to take control of the next C-segment platform. “We have strength in the C-segment in SUV,” Uchida told journalists in response to a question over who would develop the platform. “We would like to keep this kind of core.”

As far as Nissan is concerned, this is a global platform and should be Nissan’s responsibility. “As of today, A- and B-segment is Renault and C and D is Nissan,” Gupta said at the meeting.

“We are not investing in CMF-BEV [the Renault 5 and Micra platform]. We are not investing in CMF-A [the city car platform used for Renault’s Kwid in India],” Gupta said. “But when it comes to the C-segment platform, that is not a regional platform. That is China, US, everywhere, and that is what we would like to keep.”

So who leads it? It might be that Renault and Nissan both go it alone, as they did with hybrid drivetrains in the C-segment.

The announcement on Monday was as much about acknowledging that the two parties can work with others or go solo, should they wish to do. “It’s an open relationship rather than a forced marriage,” de Meo said.

The rebalanced shareholding has reduced Renault’s outsized 43 per cent stake in Nissan to the same 15 per cent that Nissan holds in Renault, with the rest of Renault’s stake held in trust prior to being sold. That changes the relationship, meaning everyone has to buy into the new projects or plough their own furrow. “Now I’m not forcing you because I have 43%, but you do it because it makes sense,” de Meo said. “If we don’t agree, we don’t agree.”

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