Thursday, 24 July 2014

Renault to supply light CV to Fiat from 2016

Renault and Fiat have signed an agreement whereby Renault will supply Fiat with a light commercial vehicle based on a Renault platform.

The styling of the Fiat vehicle will be developed by Fiat and will feature unique and distinctive elements on the model, branded Fiat Professional.

The vehicle will be manufactured by Renault in France starting from the second quarter of 2016.

The agreement raises more questions than it provides answers. Where, for example, does this leave the agreement Renault has with General Motors for the Trafic/Vivaro?

It raises another question: What of the deal between Renault and Mercedes-Benz whereby the French company provides Mercedes with the Citan van, being a derivative of the Kangoo?

Presumably the new light CV will be a different class of vehicle to the Vivaro/Trafic, and smaller than these two vehicles. Could it be a replacement for the Fiat Doblo built in Turkey? Interestingly, General Motors buys the Doblo and markets it as the Vauxhall Combo.

Production of Vivaro at the Luton Van Plant in the UK gathers momentum after summer shutdown. Renault will build its version, the Trafic at its huge Sandouville plant near Le Havre, in France.

Each company, GM and Renault have made investments in tooling and contributed to vehicle engineering. Vauxhall in Luton will use Renault powertrain and the Luton plant will build only Opel and Vauxhall versions, whereas previously it also built Trafic vehicles for Renault under a previous agreement between GM and Renault. This latest move suggests there will be some spare capacity as the plant can build more than 70,000 a year. How will GM use that?

Without Renault vehicles, it is up to Vauxhall and Opel to sell as many vehicles as they can to fill capacity as best they can from the viewpoint of maximising resources at the Luton plant.

As for the Citan, known inside Mercedes-Benz as the W415, this is the  result of the partnership between Daimler and the Renault-Nissan Alliance and is assembled by Renault subsidiary MCA in the northern French town of Maubeuge, alongside its sister vehicle the Renault Kangoo. Daimler had a van agreement with Volkswagen AG, but that has ended as both OEMs build their own versions.

The varied body styles of the Citan stem from a vehicle aimed at both passenger car and light CV markets. The Citan is the first Mercedes-Benz to be launched into the commercial vehicle market since Vito in 1995. Daimler claims the light van sector is the fastest-growing market area in Europe, accounting for 700,000 sales annually.

In North America, the market is responding fast. Chrysler, owned by Fiat, has launched the Ram ProMaster City, based on the Fiat Doblo from Europe but powered by Chrysler's 2.4-litre Tigershark four-cylinder gasoline engine. It is front-drive and will use the company's new, fuel-efficient nine-speed automatic. The engine and transmission also are used in the new Chrysler 200 sedan and the Jeep Cherokee.

Built in Turkey, the City will be sold in two-seat cargo and five-seat passenger versions and be able to carry 1,883 pounds in its 131.7 cubic feet of space. The cargo area measures 60.4in by 87.2in and has a building panel-friendly 48in between the wheel wells. City goes on sale in early 2015.

The new vehicle joins the Ram van line-up that includes the larger Ram ProMaster Euro van and the Ram C/V, a commercial version of the Chrysler minivan.

At the same time, Ford Motor Company has begun production of the 2015 Transit van at its Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Missouri.

Transit replaces the venerable Ford E-series van, first sold in 1961 as the Ford Econoline. Ford will continue making E-series vans during the 2014 calendar year as Transit production ramps up.

This is the first time Ford will build and sell Transit in North America. But North America’s gain was the UK’s loss. Ford shuttered its Transit production in Southampton and transferred production to Turkey.

Ford claims it has invested $1.1 billion and added 2,000 new jobs to the Kansas City Assembly Plant.

In the US, of the Big Three, that leaves GM. How will it respond? It has a brand new Euro van in the UK, the Vivaro. Could that be sold in the US?

In Europe, the picture is muddled. Last year, Daimler AG and Renault SA proclaimed that they continued to identify new projects together as they expanded their global cooperation to include light commercial.

Renault's alliance partner Nissan Motor Corporation will supply Daimler with the NV350 Urvan which will be sold under its Mitsubishi Fuso brand in selected export markets.

"We will continue to seek out new projects together that make sense for all partners," Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said at a news conference at last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show.

The manufacturers have gradually added projects to their three-year-old cooperation, originally focused on Daimler's Smart city cars and Mercedes-Benz delivery vans.

According to Renault sources, the latest agreement with Fiat has "no impact" on the GM-Renault agreement, or for that matter on the Daimler-Renault agreement. Renault sources also hint the agreement could be for a "medium van" in the segment where Fiat sells the Scudo vehicle.The Fiat Scudo shares its shell with the Citroen Dispatch and Peugeot Expert, and is good to drive, but the Ford Transit Custom carries more

The current Scudo was launched in 2007, built in a joint venture with PSA Peugeot Citroen, which also produces the Citroen Dispatch and Peugeot Expert. Fiat withdrew from the joint venture in 2012 and was replaced by Toyota, giving rise to a fourth variant, the Toyota Proace.

Production of the Scudo is scheduled to continue until 2016. The Scudo is available in five body styles, with short-wheelbase low-roof L1H1, long-wheelbase low and high-roof L2H1 and L2H2 models, as well as two recently launched crew van models based on the L1H1 and L2H2.

Scudo uses French-made powertrain in the form of 1.6- and 2-litre diesel engines sourced from PSA Peugeot Citroen.

So the light commercial van picture continues to evolve.

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