PARIS (Reuters) -- Nissan plans to move production of the Primastar van from Spain to a Renault plant in France, sources told Reuters. The move will help Renault to keep a pledge to raise domestic output in return for union concessions.
The next version of the Primastar will be built at Renault's Sandouville factory alongside Renault's Trafic and a version of the Opel/Vauxhall Vivaro, which share the same vehicle platform, three people with knowledge of the matter said.
"The decision to pull Primastar out of Barcelona is made," a source close to Nissan said. "It's logical that Primastar production will be combined with other alliance commercial vehicles."
In February, Nissan said it will build 80,000 units a year of a new compact car in Barcelona. The model will rival cars such as the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus and will mark the automaker's return to the European mainstream compact segment that the company quit when it stopped selling the Almera in the region in 2006.
The Nissan Primastar's move will follow the 2014 introduction of a new Renault Trafic, which is also being transferred to Sandouville from Vauxhall's plant in Luton, England, under previously announced plans.
The Barcelona factory produced just 4,600 Primastars last year, but sales are expected to rise with the replacement of the 12-year-old model.
Renault and its 43.4 percent-owned Japanese affiliate both declined to comment on production plans.
Carlos Ghosn, who heads both companies, has promised to increase Renault's French production by 100,000 vehicles for its own brand and 80,000 for Nissan and Daimler by 2016, in return for wage restraint and other union concessions. French production plans for Renault's partners will be announced within months, he said on March 13.
Under Renault-Nissan's 3-year-old partnership with Daimler, Renault already produces diesel engines for the German luxury carmaker, as well as the Mercedes-Benz Citan delivery van based on the Renault Kangoo.
According to Jacques Verdonck, the alliance director in charge of cooperation with Daimler, Renault's Maubeuge plant will build 40,000 Citans this year, contributing an increase of 26,000 vehicles over 2012 output towards Ghosn's 80,000 target.
But in a setback for the Renault-Daimler partnership and French production, the German carmaker said it had reconsidered tentative plans for a battery-powered Citan paired with Renault's electric Kangoo. "Right now we don't see a need for an electric version of the Citan, after a close look at the business case and customer demand," a Daimler spokesman told Reuters.
The larger Mercedes Vito has recorded fewer than 1,000 deliveries of an electric version launched in early 2011, suggesting demand for a battery-powered Citan "is not on a scale that would make a business case," the spokesman said.