April 30 (Bloomberg) -- Daimler AG and Renault SA said they are holding discussions to build a large van together as part of a possible expansion of their existing partnership.
“We’re in early talks with Renault,” Uta Leitner, a Daimler spokeswoman, said in a phone interview today from the automaker’s headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. “No decisions on possible production sites have been taken.” Renault spokeswoman Raluca Barb confirmed the discussions.
The two automakers already share the underpinnings of a delivery van, which Mercedes calls the Citan and Renault sells as the Kangoo. The cooperation, which also includes Renault’s Japanese alliance partner Nissan Motor Co., started in 2010 to build a four-seat model for Daimler’s Smart small car brand.
The two automakers declined to comment on a La Tribune report that Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz brand may produce vehicles at a Renault site in France.
Renault is seeking to increase capacity utilization as the manufacturer struggles to maintain profit with the European car market sinking to a 20-year low. As part of a cost-cut deal with workers, the manufacturer, based in the Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt, agreed to increase French production.
The deal with unions includes reducing the workforce in France by 17 percent and freezing pay this year in exchange for a pledge not to close any plants in the country for three years. Renault announced last week it will build the next version of Nissan’s Micra compact in France starting in 2016.
Daimler currently works with Volkswagen AG in the large van segment. The contract runs out at the end of 2016 and VW has announced plans to develop a new Crafter model on its own. No decision has been made on where the vehicle, which VW currently assembles at a Mercedes plant, will be built, Eckhard Scholz, head of VW’s commercial-vehicles unit, said last month.
Van demand in Europe sank 9.8 percent in the first quarter to 347,517 vehicles, according to data from the ACEA industry group.
Mercedes’s current large Sprinter van is produced at German sites in Dusseldorf and Ludwigsfelde, as well as at locations in the U.S., Argentina and China. The company is also preparing to produce an older version of the model in Russia with local manufacturer GAZ Group.
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