PARIS -- Renault Group will build two new "sister models" for alliance partner Mitsubishi Motors starting in 2023, as the Japanese automaker reverses a decision to wind down operations in Europe.
A model mix of the newly launched Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross plug-in hybrid SUV and the Renault-developed sister models will enable Mitsubishi to be more competitive in the market, the automakers said in a news release Wednesday.
Mitsubishi and Renault provided few details on the new models, except to say that they would be "based on the same platforms but with differentiations, reflecting the Mitsubishi brand’s DNA."
They will be sold in “selected major European markets," the automakers said. The UK will not be one of the target markets, a spokesman for Mitsubishi there said.
The vehicles will be versions of "best-sellers on the European market which already meet regulatory requirements," the release added. Renault's top two best-selling models in Europe are the Clio small hatchback and Captur small crossover, both of which were revamped on new platforms in the past 18 months.
Mitsubishi Motors CEO Takao Kato said the decision to source Renault-based models was an opportunity to win new buyers for the brand, but that it would not develop new models from scratch for Europe.
Mitsubishi has been implementing structural reforms in Europe and our decision remains "to freeze new car development for the European market, announced in July 2020 in our mid-term business plans," Kato said in a statement.
The decision for Renault to build Mitsubishi models confirms reports that emerged earlier this year that Renault could become a production partner for the Japanese automaker.
Mitsubishi's lineup in Europe now consists of the Mirage/Space Star small car, midsize Outlander plug-in hybrid SUV and the Eclipse Cross compact SUV, which went on sale in 2017. A plug-in hybrid version of the Eclipse Cross was recently introduced.
The decision could also help new Renault CEO Luca de Meo increase utilization rates in Renault plants, in France and elsewhere. The automaker put in place a cost-cutting plan last year to save more than 2 billion euros ($2.38 billion) and eliminate about 14,000 jobs, including more than 4,000 in France.
Renault has already announced that the Flins plant outside of Paris will be converted from vehicle production to recycling and other “circular economy” activities.
Both the Clio and Captur are manufactured outside France. A source familiar with the matter said before the announcement that discussions with Mitsubishi were not centered on French plants.
"This pragmatic, value-driven initiative will make a difference in our plants, in our partner’s footprint and on the European streets," de Meo said in the release.