Daimler Reviewing Collaboration With Nissan at Mexico Auto Plant

  • Unclear if shared platform, components make sense: CEO Zetsche
  • Infiniti output set to start this year, Mercedes in 2018

Daimler AG and Nissan Motor Co. are re-examining the scope of collaboration at their planned Mexican factory that’s set to make Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti cars.

Daimer and Nissan are building a $1 billion plant together in Aguascalientes that’s scheduled to start rolling out Nissan Infiniti luxury models this year, and Mercedes compact vehicles starting in 2018. While Mercedes’s intentions remain on track -- despite the threat of U.S. import duties on cars made south of the border -- the extent of the collaboration is under review.

“There have been question marks about our efforts for a joint compact platform,” Daimler Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche said at the company’s annual press conference in Stuttgart, Germany. “We’re in the process of looking at whether we’ll use a shared platform or components or not in the end.”

Daimler and Nissan have developed and produced vehicles together since 2010 to better compete with larger rivals including Volkswagen AG. Their venture has made city cars, trucks and engines together, including electric versions of Daimler’s Smart auto. The Aguascalientes plant will be able to produce as many as 230,000 cars annually.

Nissan Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn said in January that the Daimler venture may take a “different shape,” and both Ghosn and Zetsche said last year the pace of their collaboration may slow now that the obvious projects have been tackled.

Automakers from Ford Motor Co. to Toyota Motor Corp. have been criticized by President Donald Trump for making cars in Mexico to be sold in the U.S. Trump has pledged to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and proposed a 35 percent tax on imported autos.

The factory will form part of a Mercedes global network of four different sites producing smaller cars, Zetsche said.

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