NISSAN TO THE RESCUE

NISSAN SET TO JUMP-START MITSUBISHI’S 4X4 OFFERINGS WITH A PLATFORM SHARING STRATEGY.

WORDS TOBY HAGON

NISSAN is set to capitalise on its planned 34 per cent purchase of Mitsubishi by embarking on a bold platform sharing strategy that could expand the four-wheel drive offerings of both brands.

The head of Renault and Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, has already flagged the idea of Mitsubishi’s Triton ute sharing the platform of the Navara, something that would lead to significant development and production savings and – potentially – produce a better product.

“It’s very possible we’re going to use the same platform,” Ghosn told journalists in a phone conference within days of the May announcement of the planned $3 billion purchase of Mitsubishi shares, which will give Nissan a controlling interest in the ailing Japanese rival.

“Instead of having two different platforms we can have, on the same platform, two different products, which will allow the investments to be lower and also to have lower purchasing costs of parts that are not visible to the customer.”

However, Ghosn was adamant the cars would not be badge-engineered and would instead look, feel and smell different on the showroom floor.

“We’re going to develop the cars differently because the customers of Mitsubishi are not the same as the customers of Nissan,” he said.

The Navara ute is already providing the underpinnings for the upcoming Mercedes- Benz and Renault utes, though (along similar lines) each will be presented to customers quite differently.

The Mercedes-Benz, in particular, will be a very different beast and come with a premium price tag befitting the brand. Mercedes will use its own 4Matic four-wheel drive system and, while there will be a Nissan-sourced engine within the Benz global offerings, there will also be Mercedes-Benz engines, including a V6 diesel.

Benefits could also flow to Nissan within its expansive six-strong SUV range.

With the imminent demise of the Y61 Patrol in October – after almost 19 years on the market – the company will be left without a large dieselpowered off-roader. Utilising the platform of the Navara – as the previous Pathfinder used to – and sharing those development costs with a next-gen Pajero Sport (itself based on the Triton) seems an obvious choice.

The Y62 Nissan Patrol (the bigger, petrol-powered Patrol made for the US market) could also provide a lifeline to the Mitsubishi Pajero, an ageing model that was expected to be discontinued at the end of the current generation. Mitsubishi had previously flagged its intention to continue the Pajero nameplate with the GC-PHEV concept from the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, but more recently it appeared there was nothing in the development pipeline. The move to discontinue the Challenger name and replace it with Pajero Sport added fuel to the fire that the Pajero – a model that has been in Australia since 1983 and one of a handful of off-roaders that utilised a monocoque construction – could be killed off.

On the softer side of SUVs, Mitsubishi could leverage the vast Nissan portfolio for components and platforms for muchneeded replacements.