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German automaker Daimler AG and French car manufacturer Renault have reportedly agreed on a new business strategy that will see both parties create a global small-car alliance, sharing development costs and technology. Details of the deal are set to be announced tomorrow in Brussels with Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche and Renault-Nissan Boss Carlos Ghosn taking part.
According to a report by Automotive News Europe, the management boards for each automaker have agreed to the partnership.
Currently Daimler, parent company to Mercedes-Benz and Smart, is looking to introduce new A-Class and B-Class models, as well as bring the B-Class to the U.S. New Smart models are also a part of future plans. Meanwhile, Renault, which owns Japanese automaker Nissan, launched a new sub-compact Micra (above), which is slated for global sales.
The move is just the latest partnership to emerge in a post-recession auto industry, where automakers are looking not only for ways to reduce research and development costs, but to partner with companies with expertise in other areas. Earlier this year, Volkswagen and Suzuki announced a similar partnership, while Italian automaker Fiat took control of Chrysler in a bid to reduce costs and expand into new markets.
[Source: Automotive News]
Taking the idea of a concept car to a whole new level, Mercedes-Benz has just unveiled the new Mercedes-Benz Design Concept at the Detroit Auto Show. Called “abstract” by Mercedes CEO Dr. Dieter Zetsche, we couldn’t agree more. In fact, it’s almost like they took a DTM C-Class with it’s imposing front grille that hugs the ground and gave it to Jabba the Hut for a little Han Solo-style cryogenic freezing.
Regardless, it’s meant to give a glimpse at the future of Mercedes-Benz designs, and is described by the company as a sculpture. “It represents a vehicle rising gently from a level plane – as if formed from liquid silver, or like a shimmering cloth draped gently over a new form,” reads the Mercedes press release. “Clear, contoured surfaces are framed by crisp arcs, lending the sculpture an organic appearance that is both retrospective and forward-looking.”
Mock it we may, but the aggressive grille and massively flared fenders foreshadow an impressive new look for the already imposingly luxurious Benz lineup.
GALLERY: Mercedes-Benz Design Concept
Official release after the jump:
Renault expected to help develop small cars for Mercedes parent company
Dr. Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler has said that the company will announce a small car partner mid way through 2010. Daimler has been in talks with French automaker Renault, with rumors that the two may partner on a new line of small cars and electric city cars. This partnership could also help produce future Smart models (including a 4-door) as well as future versions of the B-Class and A-Class (shown above).
Recently Renault’s CEO, Patrick Pelata confirmed discussions are ongoing saying that, “Yes, we are discussing serious matters with Daimler. Carmakers are holding discussions with each other. There are a lot at the moment.”
There is a possibility that the talks with Renault could be over more than just small cars, as industry consolidation seems to be a common trend as of late. Along with Volkswagen’s acquisition of Porsche and its purchase in a share of Suzuki, rumors have pointed towards Mitsubishi teaming up with French automaker Peugeot Citroen. Meanwhile Mazda, recently cut off from Ford’s hybrid technology, has cozied up with Toyota to develop a new line of hybrids.
Pelata has confirmed that a potential Daimler/Renault deal could see the two automakers co-develop and share engines, transmissions and even vehicle platforms.
Mercedes will introduce at least one small car to the U.S. in 2012, doing a 180 on a past decision to stick to larger vehicles in order to enforce the brand’s high-end image. The news comes directly from CEO Dr. Dieter Zetsche, in an interview in the Wall Street Journal. The car would compete with vehicles like the BMW 1 Series, Audi A3, Volvo C30 and MINI Cooper – as well as a possible compact luxury vehicle from Lexus based on the LF-Ch concept.
Analysts have suggested the move is the result of lessons learned from the recent economic downturn, with sales of larger luxury vehicles and SUVs taking a significant hit, while the share of the market made up by compact and subcompact vehicles has grown. The introduction of a smaller and more fuel efficient model in the Mercedes lineup in the U.S. would also help the manufacturer meet increasingly strict CAFE regulations.
In the past Mercedes had decided to introduce the B-Class to the U.S. market but canceled plans when an unfavorable Euro-to-dollar exchange rate made the car’s business plan unsound. (The B-Class was, however, introduced in Canada, where vehicles are sold for significantly more).
The new Mercedes small car will be based on an all new platform that Mercedes says is much cheaper to manufacture, making the Euro-to-dollar exchange rate less of a factor. It is not yet known if the car will follow in the B-Class’s layout of being a premium-people mover or if Mercedes will opt to build a more sporty offering to better compete with cars like the 1 Series or MINI Cooper.
Over the past two years, Mercedes has introduced three concepts based on the B-Class architecture, including a hydrogen fuel-cell concept, a hybrid concept and an electric car concept. It’s likely that the future Mercedes small car platform will bring one of more of these concept car technologies into production.
[Source: The Wall Street Journal]
As rumored, Mercedes-Benz has decided to part ways with McLaren after 15 years as partners in Formula 1, opting instead to buy a majority stake in the Brawn GP team. The new team, named Mercedes Grand Prix, will run in the 2010 F1 season, keeping much of the Brawn team, including team principal Ross Brawn.
The Brawn GP team entered the 2009 Formula One World Championship as serious underdogs, using the underperforming Honda cars. And yet, the team managed to clinch both the Constructors’ and Drivers’ World Championships.
“We look back on 15 successful years of great collaboration with McLaren; in that time, we won four world-championship titles and finished ten times as runner-up in the drivers’ and constructors’ rankings,” siad Norbert Haug, VP of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport. “Since the first victory in the 1997 Australian Grand Prix, the modern Silver Arrows have achieved a total of 60 victories in 223 races to ensure that our brand symbol, the star, stands for the greatest successes in Formula 1. We thank our partner and will continue to work with McLaren based on an excellent partnership.”
Daimler AG boss Dr. Dieter Zetsche thanked McLaren stating that, “For the benefit of both Mercedes and McLaren, we will continue our partnership cooperation in future. We will be rivals on-track but, off-track, we will cooperate with McLaren and the other teams in order to create the best possible product for spectators worldwide.”
The partnership between the two companies is much more strained than that, however, as Mercedes has also announced it will let McLaren buy back the 40 percent stake it now holds. That transaction should be completed by 2011, fully dissolving the Mercedes McLaren business relationship.
Official release after the jump:
Mercedes will debut a plug-in hybrid version of the S-Class at the Frankfurt Auto Show next week. The car, apparently labeled the Vision S500 PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle), will be powered by a V6 gasoline engine, connected to an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack. The uber-saloon will be able to travel up to 18.6 miles (30 km) on pure electric power before the gasoline engine kicks in to recharge the batteries.
Mercedes claims the car should get roughly 73.5 mpg (3.2L/100km).
While fuel-efficient, the car is also reported to be a performer, with a 0-62 mph time of 5.5 seconds.
“The Vision S 500 HYBRID is a new milestone on our path toward zero-emission mobility,” said Mercedes CEO Dr. Dieter Zetsche. It is a luxurious and safe S-Class vehicle that offers superior driving performance while at the same time consuming less fuel than current compacts. All of this shows that our top models will also be able to combine automotive fascination with responsibility for the environment.”
We’ll be sure to bring you more on the Vision S500, with live coverage from the Frankfurt Auto Show starting September 15th.
GALLERY: S-Class PHEV