PARIS -- Dieter Zetsche has big plans to put Mercedes-Benz into the premium pickup business, and he is relying on Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn to help make it happen.
In one of several global product-sharing ventures between Daimler and Renault-Nissan, Mercedes will obtain a new midsize pickup that will share some of its architecture with the new Nissan NP300.
"Nissan has over 80 years of experience developing and producing pickup trucks," said Zetsche, CEO of Daimler. "We are building on this knowledge and expertise."
It is a significant product initiative for Mercedes, Zetsche said as Ghosn sat next to him during a joint press conference at the auto show here. Zetsche believes that pickup trucks are no longer just for working people, farmers and contractors but are now ready for a role in the premium end of the auto market.
"The midsized pickup segment is not only booming; it is at the beginning of a major transformation," he said. "More and more customers are looking for pickup trucks with carlike specifications. We will be a driving force in this change."
The Mercedes pickup will be built in Renault's plant in Cordoba, Argentina, and at Nissan’s Barcelona plant in Spain, where the Nissan NP300 Frontier and the Renault Alaskan will also be produced, Daimler said in a statement. The Mercedes pickup will be engineered and designed by Daimler to meet the needs of its customers in Europe, Australia, South Africa and Latin America, Daimler said.
Over the past quarter-century, Zetsche has been front and center in Daimler's excursions into new market segments. He was a leading proponent for starting the Smart urban car brand. He pressed the Mercedes brand to enter the SUV market in the 1990s, despite concerns from dealers. And he has championed the automaker's aspirations as a "mobility" company with the development of a driverless car initiative.
Zetsche said the pickup concept will be revealed in the next several weeks.
"It's the perfect opportunity for a sustainable portfolio extension," he said. "We have achieved scale by leveraging Nissan's production. This will speed up our market entry to our markets in Australia, South Africa, Latin America and in Europe. At the same time, we will build a true Mercedes, engineered and designed by Daimler. This way, we will close one of the last remaining gaps in our product portfolio."
Zetsche did not say whether the truck will be offered in the U.S.
Daimler and Renault-Nissan also are sharing the platform for a new generation of Smart cars; a small-car platform that yields both the Mercedes GLA and the Infiniti QX30; electric-vehicle components, and a Daimler-designed engine built by Nissan that is now used for both the Mercedes C class and the Infiniti Q50. The companies also are constructing an assembly plant in Mexico that will produce both Infiniti and Mercedes vehicles starting late next year.
Daimler and Renault-Nissan have a token cross-ownership. But the partnerships are being undertaken on more of a nonbinding basis.
"We will work together where it makes sense," Ghosn said.
But producing vehicles for two carmakers requires that they maintain a distinct look and feel, Zetsche said.
He said: "In addition to a unique exterior and interior design, the pickup will have all of Mercedes distinctive attributes in comfort and design."