Daimler, Nissan to jointly build small luxury cars in Mexico
DETROIT (Reuters) - Japan's Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) and Germany's Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE) will build small Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz luxury cars at a Nissan plant in Mexico, two sources confirmed on Tuesday.
The $2-billion Aguascalientes plant, which will open late this year next to an existing Nissan assembly plant, is expected to build the new Infiniti Q30, a compact four-door hatchback that will share engines and some chassis components with the Mercedes-Benz GLA, the sources said.
The 2015 GLA, a compact crossover vehicle similar in size to the Q30, will go on sale next spring in Europe and next fall in the United States, Mercedes-Benz has said. The GLA is one of several candidates for future production at Aguascalientes, the sources said.
The final production version of the GLA will make its public debut next week at the Frankfurt Auto Show and will be built initially at a Mercedes-Benz plant in Rastatt, Germany.
A concept version of the Q30 also will debut next week at the Frankfurt show.
The Q30, which is expected to go on sale in mid-2015, could be assembled at two locations, according to a source at Nissan who asked not to be named. Initially, the car may be built at Nissan's Sunderland plant in the U.K. for European customers and later at Aguascalientes for the U.S. market.
Nissan, which is partnered with French automaker Renault, and Daimler signed a cooperative agreement in 2010 to share vehicle platforms, engines and other components. The Q30 is the first Nissan-built vehicle that will share a Daimler platform, the Nissan source said.
"We have made no announcements regarding additional phases of production" at Aguascalientes, beyond the startup late this year of a new series of small cars, according to David Reuter, Nissan North America vice president of corporate communications.
"To my knowledge, the Q30 and the GLA share some components," said Mercedes-Benz North America spokesman Christian Bokich, who said he could not confirm GLA production plans.
Both the Q30 and the GLA were designed around a new compact car architecture developed by Daimler and known internally as NGCC, for New Generation Compact Car, according to a European supplier source.
The NGCC architecture includes a flexible set of lightweight chassis components that will also be used to underpin the new 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA sedan that goes on sale this month in the United States, and the 2015 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric, slated to reach the U.S. market next summer.
The CLA is being built in Hungary. The B-Class Electric will be built in Rastatt.
Mercedes executives have said production of the CLA could shift from Hungary to Mexico when the compact sedan is redesigned in 2018.
(Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Nick Zieminski)