Big changes coming to popular utes

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Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi will cut costs by rebadging next-gen cars set to share more parts than ever under a reworked alliance.

Half the models produced by the three brands will be generic cars shared across the group, with the three-way concern promising to push its “standardisation strategy further, from platforms to upper bodies” in the next five years.

Nissan’s Ariya concept car will result in a production model copied by Mitsubishi and Renault.
media_cameraNissan’s Ariya concept car will result in a production model copied by Mitsubishi and Renault.

The Euro-Japanese alliance has been rocked by falling sales, the COVID-19 crisis and the arrest of its former chairman Carlos Ghosn, followed by his sensational escape from authorities in Japan.

Though it looked on track to become one company, the three brands will retain a degree of independence by dividing responsibilities within the group.

Nissan and Mitsubishi are fighting to develop the group’s new ute. Picture: Thomas Wielecki
media_cameraNissan and Mitsubishi are fighting to develop the group’s new ute. Picture: Thomas Wielecki

A statement issued by the joint concern says the three manufacturers will focus on established strengths, both regionally and technologically. A so-called “leader-follower” arrangement will establish one brand as a leader in key areas, with other marques to follow suit.

Mitsubishi will be the main reference point for the three brands across the Oceania and ASEAN region.

Cost-cutting could kill the Alpine A110 sports coupe.
media_cameraCost-cutting could kill the Alpine A110 sports coupe.

Nissan will lead the alliance in Japan, the USA and China, while Renault will be the main brand in Europe, Russia, South America and North Africa.

Following its expertise with the Outlander PHEV, Mitsubishi is in charge of plug-in hybrid tech, while Nissan’s “ProPilot” experience establishes it as the autonomous vehicles leader. Renault will work on small electric cars such as the Zoe, while Nissan takes charge of upcoming electric family cars based on the Ariya concept unveiled at November’s Tokyo motor show.

Niche cars that are sold in a handful of countries, such as the Renault Megane RS, face an uncertain future.
media_cameraNiche cars that are sold in a handful of countries, such as the Renault Megane RS, face an uncertain future.

Nissan’s Qashqai will also be the basis of the next-generation Mitsubishi ASX and Renault Kadjar.

Renault will lead development of a new baby SUV replacing the Captur, which will go on to wear Nissan and Mitsubishi badges in other markets.

The brands already work together with models such as the Nissan X-Trail and Renault Koleos, which are fundamentally the same car under the skin.

The model has been crucial to the Volkswagen Group’s success. Almost all of its platforms are shared across multiple brands, such as the VW Touareg family SUV which donates its bones to the Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q7, Lamborghini Urus and Bentley Bentayga.

Cabin tech powered by Google’s Android will feature in all three brands.
media_cameraCabin tech powered by Google’s Android will feature in all three brands.

While the current Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi Triton utes have nothing in common, the next iterations will be close relatives in a similar fashion to the Mazda BT-50 based on Ford’s Ranger.

Nissan and Mitsubishi executives traded barbs surrounding the future ute in 2018, claiming that each brand’s experience with existing models, plus four-wheel-drives such as the Patrol and Pajero, made them the best contenders to lead the way for a next-gen pick-up.

Not everything will be shared.

Nissan may be too proud to share the GT-R and next 370Z with other brands.
media_cameraNissan may be too proud to share the GT-R and next 370Z with other brands.

Halo models such as the successors to Nissan’s 370Z and GT-R are likely to remain independent. But the future of some niche models, such as Renault’s Megane RS hot hatch and Porsche-rivalling Alpine A110 sports coupe remain uncertain.

Originally published as Big changes coming to popular utes