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Nissan Motor Co., Nissan Diesel Motor Co. and Daimler Benz AG announced Monday that they have reached an agreement to jointly develop a light commercial vehicle for the worldwide market.

The agreement is the first one to bear fruit since the three firms revealed in May plans for cooperative business tieups.

“This cooperation will be an important step toward expanding our commercial vehicles business in the Eastern Hemisphere. It will be an integral part of the Daimler-Benz Asia strategy,” Daimler-Benz Chairman Jurgen E. Shrempp said in a statement.

“I’m convinced that this cooperation in the commercial vehicles business with Daimler-Benz will play a very important role for strengthening of all of the Nissan Group’s business at the global level,” said Yoshikazu Hanawa, president of Nissan Motor.

Daimler-Benz is reportedly interested in acquiring shares of Nissan Diesel, but such capital participation by the German automaker has not yet been announced. According to spokesmen for the three companies, negotiations for other types of cooperation among the three firms are still continuing in other areas, but the details and timing of such agreements cannot be disclosed.

Under the pact reached and signed on Monday, the three firms will launch a development project for a new light truck that will have a gross weight of 3 to 9 tons, by the end of this year.

While the three automakers will manufacture and market the truck using their own facilities and sales channels, they will also exchange components and development and production knowhow, according to the agreement.

Production and sales of the new model are slated to start in 2002, and the annual sales target worldwide is about 100,000 to 150,000 units, the companies said. The automakers hope to reap huge cost reduction merits and an increase in quality through their combined knowhow, they said.

Since the joint development project will be launched at the headquarters of Nissan Diesel, Daimler-Benz will bring in engineers and specialists from facilities based in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The new light truck will have a common platform but undergo subtle changes as each company adds its own modifications during assembly. The three companies will also sell the new product under their own brand names, they said.

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