Fleet News

Smart set to be first to benefit from alliance

DAIMLERChrysler and Mitsubishi Motors are to jointly develop new ranges of small cars, light commercial vehicles and pick-up trucks following the German-American group's £1.28 billion acquisition of 34% of the Japanese car and truck company. The alliance, expected to be formally signed by June, will create the world's third largest automotive group in terms of revenue and sales.

It will give DaimlerChrysler wider access to the Asian markets while Mitsubishi gains access to the debis worldwide financial services network and the chance to strengthen its activities in Europe and North America. Mitsubishi will remain an independently managed company with separate sales and marketing operations.

Two of the first spin-offs will be global opportunities for the 600cc Smart microcar, which is due to be launched in the UK this autumn, and a new small car range for Europe developed and produced on a shared platform at NedCar in Holland, which currently makes Mitsubishi Carisma and Volvo V40/S40.

Jurgen Schrempp, chairman of DaimlerChrysler, said the partnership arrangement would allow the group to profitably expand its share of the global small car segment. 'It will help us expand the Smart brand in the near future and give us access to growth markets in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe where in future DaimlerChrysler will have the optimum product mix,' he said.

Confirming that the NedCar facility would become a 50:50 joint venture development and production site for a common 'small car' platform with gasoline direct injection (GDI) engine technology, Schrempp added: 'We see a lot of further opportunities, especially in development of new product, engines and environmental technology.'

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