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Nissan will start building a "piloted drive" version of the Qashqai SUV in Sunderland next year (Photo: Nissan)

Renault and its Japanese alliance partner Nissan are stepping up their internal cooperation efforts with the goal of saving 5.5 billion euros a year by 2018.

The two carmakers, which share a chief executive, Carlos Ghosn, and have cross shareholdings in each other, have in recent years been combining more functions. In a press release Friday, they said new synergies will be realized in engineering, manufacturing, supply chain management, purchasing and human resources.

Convergence of several business functions has already resulted in savings of more than 4 billion euros in 2015.

In a press statement, Ghosn characterized the convergence of functions between the two partners as "a pragmatic business tool" and said: "The road ahead is one of more convergence, working more closely together.”

Many Renault and Nissan business units are already run by executives working for the Renault-Nissan alliance. Quality and costing will be added to these and the companies are investigating whether more synergies can be achieved by combining sales and marketing, connectivity and connected services, product planning, aftersales and other support functions.

The alliance appointed a new senior executive for connected vehicles and mobility services, Ogi Redzic, earlier this year. He reports jointly to a Renault and a Nissan management board member.

Separately, Ghosn told reporters at the Geneva auto show that Renault and Nissan won't need another partner to realize their goals of building driverless cars by 2020. "We have enough resources to do this by ourselves," he said.

The Renault and Nissan CEO also said there were currently no plans to jointly build electric vehicles with Daimler. The alliance has a six-year-old partnership with the German premium car group to jointly build and market several vehicles. Said Ghosn: "Electric vehicles are not part of the cooperation, but that doesn't mean they can't be in the future."

-By Arjen Bongard