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Nissan and Mitsubishi join hands for Southeast Asia push

Alliance partners will share training facilities and warehouses

Mitsubishi Motors' Xpander, popular in Southeast Asia, will be supplied to Nissan as well. (Photo by Rei Nakafuji)

TOKYO -- Nissan Motor will look to capitalize on affiliated automaker Mitsubishi Motors' strength in Southeast Asia as part of a broader collaboration that eventually leverages the three-way alliance with French partner Renault.

Mitsubishi Motors sold about 280,000 vehicles in Southeast Asia last fiscal year, more than Nissan or Renault.

Nissan became Mitsubishi Motors' top shareholder in 2016, taking a 34% stake, in the aftermath of a fuel economy falsification scandal. Mitsubishi Motors will soon open training facilities at a Philippine factory for instructing dealerships' service technicians and sales clerks. Nissan will gain access starting in August. In August of next year, the two automakers will set up joint warehouse facilities to store service parts and other materials.

The companies already collaborate on transporting assembled vehicles from factories to dealerships in Thailand and will start similar arrangements in Indonesia and the Philippines. They will begin using each other's test-drive courses in Thailand this month.

Beginning in 2019, Mitsubishi Motors will supply its popular Indonesia-built Xpander minivan to Nissan. The vehicle will be sold as a different model under the Nissan brand.

At home in Japan, Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors plan to develop electric minicars together for release in the early 2020s. The carmakers were operating a minivehicle joint venture even before Nissan became the top shareholder in its peer.

Nissan and Renault, whose alliance dates back to 1999, have consolidated many operations, including research and development, production technologies, logistics, purchasing and personnel management. Last month, they began to merge their quality control, customer management and after-sale services. Mitsubishi Motors will join this framework as well.

Carlos Ghosn, the chief of the three-way alliance, showed strong interest in Southeast Asian collaboration, as well as joint development of minicar technologies, when Nissan was buying the Mitsubishi Motors stake. He apparently has decided that Mitsubishi Motors is now strong enough to contribute.

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