LCV alliances shake-up: who’s breaking up and who’s tying up?

LCV-sales-statistics-Europe-Fiat_Ducato-Citroen_Jumper-Peugeot_BoxerThe Light Commercial Vehicle business in Europe has always been one of low margins and high volume. That’s why so many LCV models are co-developed in alliances of automakers who would otherwise be each others rivals. Some of these alliances have been in place and successful for decades, take for example the “Sevel Sud” alliance between Fiat and PSA Peugeot-Citroën, which has been producing the Fiat Ducato, Peugeot Boxer (originally known as J5) and Citroën Jumper/Relay (originally the C25) since 1981. However, in the upcoming few years, some of these alliances are due for a shake-up as a result of two new partnerships in the European car landscape. The first one is a cooperation between PSA and General Motors, even though this partnership already been reduced from its initial target, it will still involve Light Commercial Vehicles, and the other is the tightening of the relationship between Renault-Nissan and Daimler. Each of these four automakers already have tie-ups with other brands in the LCV market, most notably the cooperation between General Motors and Renault-Nissan.

Renault_Trafic-Opel_Vivaro-alliance-European-LCV-marketGeneral Motors’ Opel and Vauxhall units have been supplied with medium and large commercial vehicles by Renault since 1997, when the first generation Renault Trafic was rebadged as the Opel/Vauxhall Arena. The second generation Trafic and its clones Opel Vivaro and Nissan Primastar were actually even produced by General Motors in its Luton, UK factory. And from 1998, Renault also rebadged its large commercial van Master as the Opel Movano and Nissan Interstar (later NV400). However, the partnership between Renault-Nissan and General Motors is due to expire in the second half of this decade, but no announcement has been made about the future. However, it is a telling sign that Renault has moved production of the third generation Trafic and the upcoming Nissan NV300 to its own factory in Sandouville, France, while Vivaro production stays in GM’s UK factory. Renault will also start production of a Fiat Scudo replacement on the same production line in 2016.

Citroen_Jumpy-Fiat_Scudo-Peugeot_Expert-Toyota_ProAce-Sevel_Nord-alliance-European-LCV-marketThat’s because Fiat has pulled out of the “Sevel Nord” alliance with PSA, which started production of MPVs in 1993 and of the medium sized commercial vehicles Citroën Jumpy/Dispatch, Peugeot Expert and Fiat Scudo in 1994. After Fiat sold its share in that factory to PSA in 2012, the Toyota ProAce was added to the mix in 2013. PSA and Toyota will launch their next generation vans in 2016, and Fiat will get a rebadged Renault Trafic instead. The existing cooperations with PSA on mini LCVs (Fiat Fiorino, Peugeot Bipper and Citroën Nemo, built by Tofas in Turkey) and large LCVs (see above) are expected to continue.

Fiat_Doblo-Opel_Combo-alliance-European-LCV-marketMeanwhile, General Motors has sold a rebadged Fiat Doblo as the Opel/Vauxhall Combo since 2011, after building three generations of the Combo based on its own compact or subcompact models since 1986. But the next generation Combo, due in 2018, will be developed together with PSA, to become a clone of the next generation Citroën Berlingo and Peugeot Partner. Without Opel-Vauxhall volume, Fiat is hoping to gain enough economies of scale for the Doblo by exporting it to the United States as the RAM ProMaster.

Renault_Kangoo-Mercedes_Benz_Citan-Dacia_Dokker-European-LCV-market

Mercedes-Benz currently sources its small commercial van from Renault, which produces a rebadged version of its Kangoo as the Mercedes-Benz Citan. Funnily enough, Renault’s low-cost brand Dacia has developed its Dokker small commercial van without using the blueprints of the Renault Kangoo. Mercedes-Benz also has a partnership with Volkswagen, producing the Crafter large van based on its own Sprinter, but this couple is breaking up at the end of 2016, as Volkswagen will build the next generation Crafter in its own factory which already produces the Caddy. Instead of developing an all-new model, the new Crafter will be an updated version of the current generation.

Mercedes_Benz_Sprinter-Renault_Master-European-LCV-marketYou might then think it would make sense that Daimler teams up once more with Renault-Nissan for the next generation Sprinter and Master/NV400, while potentially dropping the Opel Movano out of the equation, but there are some issues with that theory, as Mercedes-Benz and Renault both are the supplying partner in their current cooperations in large commercial vans, and won’t be willing to give up their experience and expertise, nor to close down any factories. And besides that, development of the next generation Sprinter has already started. And that van will be exported to other parts of the world as well, most notably North America, which means it will have to meet regulations from those regions, possibly making it more expensive than a van that’s designed purely for Europe (and South America). Mercedes-Benz’ image allows it to charge a higher price to offset this investment, but Renault would be reluctant.

Until now, Ford has been the only brand with a full line-up of commercial vans without any alliance or partnership, and will be joined by Volkswagen after the break-up from Daimler. Hyundai is introducing its H-350 large commercial van in 2016, built in Turkey for exports to Europe, Middle East and Northern Africa.

For a visual aid of the European LCV alliances in 2015 and 2016, click on the picture below to start the animation:

Alliances-European-LCV-market-2015-2016

About Bart Demandt

Bart is a 34-year old Dutchman who's always had a thing for cars, the automotive industry and statistics. He’s combined these passions by writing about them on Left-Lane.com. His daily driver is an Alfa Romeo GT because he fell in love with the sound of the 3.2 V6 engine. And just like in a relationship with a woman, high maintenance costs sometimes bring him on the brink of a break-up, but true love will hopefully prevail.
You can find all his articles Here.

Comments

  1. I believe it is also worth mentioning that:
    1. This shake up effects the north-American market as well, as it had been succesfuly “invaded” by the “Euro-vans” in recent years – the Ram ProMaster (Ducato) and ProMaster City (Doblo) and Ford’s Transit Connect and Transit (which gained #1 position in no-time)
    2. GM north-America suffers from an aging platform (Chevy Express/GMC Savana) that is losing ground to the Transit (but also to the ProMaster)
    3. GM is selling a re-badged Nissan NV200 as the Chevy City Express, but I do not know of any plans to replace the Express/Savana (Even though GM uses the Renault Master platform across the pond)
    4. On the same note, Nissan has developed a North-American dedicated van (NV Van), rather than using the Renault Master platform (the latter two points could have resolved the dual-standard development cost you mentioned)
    5. Daimler-Benz is selling the Sprinter in north America under the MB as well as the Freightliner brands
    6. VW next crafter will be co-developed/build/sold (?) with VW’s owned truck-maker – MAN
    7. VW Caddy is planned to be also sold under their Skoda badge, as the next Roomster

  2. Bart Demandt says:

    Hi Dudy,

    thanks for your additions!
    Nissan had developed the NV van as a body-on-frame van, sharing many components with the Titan pick-up truck, before Ford changed course and replaced its E-Series with the much more efficient Euro Transit and RAM introduced its Ducato under the ProMaster name. So I guess they’ll regret not deciding to go with a version of the Renault Master in the US.
    But like I said, the Master hasn’t been developed with North America in mind (in contrast to the new Transit), so that might not have been worth the investment anyways. That would also explain why General Motors won’t export the Renault-built Movano to the US to replace the outdated Express/Savana.
    And as far as I’ve heard, those plans for the Skoda Roomster have been cancelled, in favor of two Skoda SUVs.
    PS. For those interested in the US van market, we also regularly publish detailed sales information from the US commercial van segment.

  3. Wow, I’m out of date. I hadn’t heard about the Dobló-Combo and Scudo-Trafic deals.

  4. Hi Bart.

    Re. The Fiat/ PSA aliance, Sevel Sud is supposed to run up to 2019, with nothing having been announced about its future, and there’s a rumour that the next gen Berlingo/Partner will actually come with 3 different lenghts ( like the Kangoo ), the shorter one a new addition and efectively replacing the Nemo/Bipper ( which should stop being made around 2018 ).

  5. Great overview and chart, thanks Bart!

  6. Bart Demandt says:

    Hi MWH, thanks for the compliment!

    @Tuga: thanks for that addition. Any word on whether the Opel version of the PSA/GM triplets will get three lengths as well?

  7. Most illuminating – bravo. Any thoughts on an e-NV300 or electric Trafic? Would GM be interested in a Volt-Vivaro?
    And could a LWB e-NV300 carry further cells (= extended range)?

Let me know what you think of this article. Thanks!

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