Already under huge pressure from slumping sales and profits in 2019, the collapse in global car demand this year could push the French and Japanese companies much closer together to cut costs and share the burden of building a new generation of electric vehicles.
The carmakers have been partners since 1999, cooperating on strategy and product development while never taking the plunge and completing a full merger. Together with junior partner Mitsubishi Motors, the unique industry alliance employs roughly 450,000 people and in 2018 it sold roughly one in every nine cars around the world.
Renault participated in merger talks with a European rival, and there were major questions over how the alliance would revive its fortunes in North America, where Nissan is a significant player but its French counterpart is not. Analysts also raised questions about cultural differences at the companies.
The companies have so far largely maintained separate manufacturing facilities. Sharing production at the plant in Sunderland could be a sign that the carmakers have set aside their differences and are responding to the crisis by helping each other to cut costs.
According to the Nikkei, Renault and Nissan are looking at shared production facilities elsewhere in Europe, as well as South America and Southeast Asia. Nissan, for example, could start producing Renault vehicles at its plants in Brazil. The companies are also reportedly hoping to boost the number of parts that can be shared between their cars and accelerating plans to develop a shared vehicle platform.
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