Infiniti will build new compact car on Mercedes platform
FRANKFURT -- Nissan Motor Co.'s Infiniti brand plans to build a compact car based on a small-car platform from Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said.
The new model will mark an expansion of the cooperation between Daimler and the Renault-Nissan alliance, Ghosn said at the Frankfurt auto show on Wednesday.
Nissan did not comment on reports that the car would be built in Europe where it will challenge the Audi A3 and BMW 1 series.
Nissan executive vice president Andy Palmer told Automotive News Europe that it is "not a sacred cow" that Infiniti cars should only be built in Japan, but would not comment on where the car will be built.
Infiniti needs a compact car in Europe to compete with entry-level models from Audi and BMW, Palmer told ANE in an interview at the auto show on Wednesday.
He said the Infiniti will launch in 2014 with gasoline and diesel engines, based largely on the Etherea concept that the brand unveiled at the Geneva auto show in March and is showing again here in Frankfurt.
The compact would likely eventually account for about 40 percent of Infiniti's European sales, Palmer said.
Earlier, Reuters reported that Nissan plans to start building the car in Europe in the next couple of years, making it the first Asian luxury brand to manufacture in the region.
Ghosn said the next generation Infiniti models will be built outside Japan due to the strength of the yen.
His remarks came at a joint press conference with Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler AG.
Zetsche said "there is extremely limited cross consideration" comparing Mercedes and Infiniti brands among buyers shopping for upscale cars.
So far, the companies are cooperating to explore electric versions of the Mercedes Smart car and the Renault Twingo, as well as a small delivery van based on Renault architecture.
Zetsche said the companies' cooperative efforts are based on practical projects, and thus differ from the disastrous Daimler-Chrysler alliance of the last decade.
Sources: Bloomberg, Reuters. Paul McVeigh contributed