DETROIT -- Mitsubishi Motors Corp.'s alliance with Nissan Motor Co. has sparked speculation about the two automakers sharing parts, vehicles or production capacity. But Mitsubishi's No. 2 executive in North America says it also could benefit Mitsubishi dealers.
Mitsubishi Motors North America COO Don Swearingen, speaking at a press event ahead of the Detroit auto show in early January, said the two brands are committed to keeping their vehicle designs distinct and separate.
Mitsubishi and Nissan still are examining areas for possible cooperation following Nissan's Oct. 20 purchase of a controlling 33.4 percent stake in its Japanese rival. In December, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn became chairman of Mitsubishi Motors Corp.
Swearingen affirmed that the two automakers are likely to share parts, as both sides have said previously. But when asked about other possible areas for cost-sharing, he repeatedly said that options are under review.
Swearingen mentioned two areas that could affect dealerships.
First, he said it is quite likely the two companies will find ways to share vehicle-transportation costs, whether in shipping cars from Japan to the U.S. or from the port to the dealership.
Second, he mentioned training, particularly for service technicians.
"We have training facilities. They have training facilities," he said. "Maybe we can share some of that."
If Mitsubishi could occasionally use Nissan's training facilities, that would help in two ways. Currently, if Mitsubishi wants to conduct a training session in an area where it doesn't have facilities, it has to rent hotel rooms.
Moreover, using a Nissan facility that's closer to Mitsubishi dealerships could result in higher attendance by Mitsubishi technicians. "The key" to effective training, Swearingen said, "is getting close to the stores."
On the other hand, Swearingen said the alliance doesn't necessarily mean more U.S. business for Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp. -- yet.
Mitsubishi will honor the remaining five years of its contract with Ally Financial Inc. for consumer financing, he said.
But asked whether Mitsubishi might turn more to Nissan's captive for floorplanning or other forms of dealership financing, Swearingen said, "Everything's on the table." He didn't say whether Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp. or Ally would get the nod from Mitsubishi after the current retail-financing contract with Ally ends.
Mitsubishi and Ally have an agreement through April 2022 that names Ally as Mitsubishi's preferred provider for financial services, according to an Ally spokeswoman. As such, Mitsubishi endorses Ally as the preferred choice to provide retail, lease and commercial financing to its dealerships.
A spokeswoman for Nissan North America referred queries to Mitsubishi.