NEW YORK -- More product-sharing ventures are cooking between Daimler and Renault-Nissan, beyond the entry-level Infiniti based on Mercedes-Benz front-wheel-drive architecture that Nissan is preparing to create.
The loose alliance between Nissan and Daimler is generating ideas for applications for three Mercedes engines in the near term and, on the long-range side of the r&d spectrum, discussions of advanced battery sharing and fuel cell co-development.
Andy Palmer, Nissan's global product planning chief, said the work has him in regular conversations with Wolfgang Bernhard, Daimler's board member in charge of car and van manufacturing and procurement.
"There's much more under the surface," Palmer told Automotive News, a sister publication of Automotive News Europe, during the New York auto show. "I personally speak with Wolfgang Bernhard at least once a week, including this morning. We meet every month. There is a wealth of opportunities. But when we announce a new opportunity, it has to be something that both parties are happy with."
Palmer said Nissan had to overcome some internal debate before agreeing to use Daimler's MFA -- Mercedes Front Architecture -- platform as the basis for the upcoming Infiniti Etherea small car.
"The argument inside Nissan was: Why not use our own platform?" Palmer said.
"But one of the mistakes that mass-market automakers make is thinking you can take your C-segment platform and turn it into a luxury compact. That doesn't work. You need a much higher standard of quality in terms of torsional rigidity, ride and handling, noise characteristics," he said.
"There's nothing that we technically can't do at Nissan. But our constraint today is that Infiniti represents about 160,000 units globally. If you continue to bring the highest technologies, your r&d spend-to-turnover will be enormous.
"Daimler has allowed us to be much more ambitious with the brand."
The companies are avoiding publicly discussing specific proposals until all sides have signed off on them. Palmer said negotiating in a loose partnership is tougher than product planning between two merged automakers.
"In a partnership, you have to be persuasive. You don't get to tell the other guys we're going to do this or that. You have to put up with debates and disagreements," Palmer said. "But you end up with something that satisfies everyone and neither side loses."
He said Daimler and Nissan are currently looking for common ground on how to proceed on fuel cells.
"Daimler has its philosophy on fuel cells, and we have ours," he said. "As we go through the debate process of which system should be used, we'll end up with a hybrid of the two -- not a Daimler solution and not a Nissan solution but a new creation by the partnership team."