A report in the Japanese business daily Nikkei, picked up by Automotive News, said Mitsubishi anticipates using a Nissan engine in the next-generation Outlander headed our way later this year. If the report comes true, the engine swap would be a first for the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance partners outside of Japanese kei cars. Mitsubishi engineers will have an easier time slotting in a Nissan engine as the next-gen Outlander gives up its GS platform — an architecture Mitsubishi co-developed with Daimler Chrysler almost 20 years ago — to move to a modified version of the CMF platform that supports the Nissan Rogue and Qashqai, our Rogue Sport.
Last December, Auto Express spoke to Ponz Pandikuthira, Nissan's European vice president of product planning. The exec said Nissan had two hybrid powertrains under consideration for the next-generation Qashqai, the first being Nissan's serial hybrid ePower system that's fared well in Japan where overall speeds are low, but that might not be suited to Europe's higher average speeds. As for a PHEV, Pandikuthira said, "We're not pursuing a big plug-in hybrid strategy. On some car lines we'll try it out, but the business case for plug-in hybrids is not very good."
Completing the round-turn, Nikkei said Mitsubishi would supply its PHEV for the compact Nissan, making the Qashqai the car line that gets the tryout. If that happens, and assuming Nissan brings it here, the Rogue Sport would be Nissan's first PHEV in the U.S. Nissan has tended to delay updating the Rogue Sport to Qashqai spec, so depending on when a PHEV version arrives, it could be the only hybrid in Nissan's U.S. fleet since the Rogue Hybrid retired for the 2020 model year.
The platform and engine exchange would have been planned before Nissan's troubles over the past 18 months, but they represent the alliance's growing effort for greater synergy and lower costs. One supposed tactic going forward comes from the Volkswagen Group playbook, identifying a brand's expertise and putting the brand in charge of developing that expertise for the alliance, the same way the Volkswagen brand develops low-cost platforms and Audi runs R&D for the group. We'll know more about plans afoot at the Franco-Japanese trio when the alliance unveils its new midterm business plan perhaps as soon as this month.