Motor shows often throw up the most interesting nuggets of news in unlikely places.
The Renault-Nissan reception at the Detroit show gave a chance to get close to company CEO Carlos Ghosn, a man who probably gives quotes in his sleep. But it also gave the chance to talk to Jacques Verdonck, who is high on the list of the most important men in the motor industry you almost certainly haven’t heard of.
He’s the guy responsible for Nissan’s side of the technical collaboration with Daimler, and it’s one that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg of so far. The new Infiniti Q30 is platform buddy with Merc’s front-drive Mercedes-Benz A-Class and its many derivatives, all sitting on the shared MFA architecture.
The engineering partnership between the two vast companies seems set to increase dramatically, with Verdonck admitting we’re likely to see other platforms and powertrains jointly developed. That is the sort of news that’s likely to appeal to industry watchers and financial analysts.
There’s another by-product of this corporate friendship, though: joint production. The alliance is building a shared plant at Aguascalientes in Mexico, which will make Infiniti and Mercedes models side by side, and Verdonck admits we’re likely to see similar shared facilities elsewhere. And with Nissan's Sunderland plant having an expensive MFA production line installed, there’s the fascinating possibility that we might, ultimately, see British-built Mercedes models.
That’s well down the line, of course. Nissan is still deciding where, other than Mexico, it will build cars based on the next MFA-2 platform, but Verdonck was quick to sing the praises of Sunderland. And while Mercedes currently uses contractor Valmet in Finland to boost its MFA production capacity, wouldn’t it make sense to switch some of that to Europe’s most efficient car factory?