Yes, you read that headline correctly.
Nissan has just confirmed outright that the next generation of the Navara pick-up as well as the next-generation Mitsubishi Triton/L200/Strada will be very closely related.
The news is most definitely not a rumor as it comes directly from the Chief Operating Officer of Nissan, Ashwani Gupta.
“As we know that Mitsubishi is very strong in the pick-up which is Triton, and now we are working very closely with Mitsubishi to use the common powertrain, common transmission, but also to have common modules on the next Triton and next Navara.” said Nissan's COO during last Thursday's financial briefing and press conference announcing the changes to the company's mid-term plan.
That's about as straight from the boss as it gets. Also, the fact that it's Ashwani Gupta saying is very interesting too: he was also COO of Mitsubishi Motors prior to his return to Nissan under CEO Makoto Uchida. Before that, he was a senior executive of Nissan's LCV program, and he was present in the Philippine regional launch event for the Navara's SUV cousin: the Terra.
Car companies working together for a common vehicle platform are not new, and it makes particularly great sense in the pick-up segment where it's theoretically simpler to do it given the body-on-frame nature of the vehicle's construction. Sharing the chassis, suspension, transmissions, parts, engines, and other bits and pieces is a very viable strategy in the auto industry to significantly reduce development and production costs between two or more companies. Each company then designs its own top (or body) for the frame.
It is interesting to note that both the current generation models of the Navara and Triton (AKA: Strada or L200) are very much independently engineered vehicles. The Navara was initially launched in mid-2014, while the L200/Triton/Strada came in late-2014, thereby pre-dating Mitsubishi's entry into the Renault Nissan Alliance. Nissan acquired 34% of Mitsubishi in 2016, gaining the latter entry into the new Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance with Carlos Ghosn as the first chairman.
Other carmakers that used the platform sharing strategy include the Ford Ranger T6 and Mazda BT-50 (when Ford and Mazda were still together). There's also the Chevrolet Colorado and Isuzu D-Max (when General Motors and Isuzu were still together, mostly). Those two automotive “couples” have since divorced (or dissolved their ties) and actually swapped partners: Isuzu worked with Mazda to develop the all-new D-Max pick-up, though Mazda has yet to launch their own new-generation BT-50 based on the new platform.
Mitsubishi's entry into the Alliance with Renault and Nissan is definitely significant for the Philippine market and the wider ASEAN region. Mitsubishi has been tasked as the leader for the Alliance in the region given the brand's strength and success in South East Asia. Nissan and Renault will effectively follow Mitsubishi's lead in this region, based on their latest announcements.
Mitsubishi did try to leverage the purchasing advantage of being an Alliance member when they came out with the facelifted Strada in 2018, but that was only with the supplier of the multimedia unit: Clarion. We were able to confirm that with a senior Mitsubishi executive given that the bird's eye camera display in the Strada was eerily similar to the Around View Monitor from Nissan.
But there are other synergies that Alliance companies are utilizing to enhance their profitability worldwide such as sharing production sites, training facilities, logistics facilities, and services, so on, and so forth. At the same press conference, Nissan's COO also confirmed that they are looking at utilizing the Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corporation (MMPC) factory in Santa Rosa, Laguna to produce frame-based vehicles: namely the pick-up and the SUV, which would be the Navara and Terra.
If the vehicles are jointly developed, that would make production simpler if there is a good degree of parts commonality.
But we'll end with this thought: if the Navara and Triton/Strada are to be platform brothers, it stands to reason that the next generation Terra and Montero Sport will be platform brothers too.
How's that for reasonable speculation?