Car manufacturers have always been finding ways to decrease the costs of production for some lower production volume models. A fairly recent example is the joint development of the Toyota Supra and the BMW Z4. Both vehicles use the same engine, same chassis, and many interior parts, to name a few.
Another fairly well-known example of this is the Daimler-Chrysler joint development of the Chrysler Crossfire and the Mercedes Benz SLK R170. During this period, Daimler owned Chrysler, and it was only logical that these two models come from the same chassis, as they were fairly similar in their intent, just like the Z4 and the Supra are now.
The Crossfire was released in 2001, and it was pitched as a two-seat sports car cruiser that shared as much as 80% of its componentry with the Mercedes SLK at the time. Later on, in 2005, Mercedes started producing the newer SLK on the R171 platform, and the R170 platform was then used by the Crossfire exclusively.
The car was named the Crossfire due to two specific design character lines that run front to back below the mirrors. Chrysler was quite proud of the fact that the final-production version of the Crossfire didn’t differ much from the concept prototype, which is rather uncommon in the car industry.
The goal of the Crossfire was to make an impact, whether you loved or hated the way the car looked. As many parts were shared with the SLK, many Chrysler dealers were forced to invest in new equipment just to be able to sell and service this automobile.
Equipment and powertrain statistics
As this car was supposed to be a step above a regular Chrysler, Chrysler was adamant to introduce many features in the Crossfire that before were mostly expected to be in a Mercedes.
As such, the Crossfire was equipped with larger wheels and performance-rated tires straight out of the factory. Furthermore, the Crossfire also had an above-average sound system by Harman/Kardon or Infinity, which were also usually found in many luxury vehicles at the time.
The car was equipped with a keyless entry system, a power-retractable rear wing, a leather steering wheel, leather upholstery on fairly bolstered sports seats, upscale floor mats and much more.
As far as the powertrain was concerned, the Crossfire had with the same powertrain as the SLK320 at the time. This meant the Crossfire was available as a manual or an automatic version, mated to a 3.2-liter V6 engine with all the power going to the rear wheels alone.
Mercedes-SLK and the sales of both models
As mentioned previously, the Crossfire shared 80% of its components with the Mercedes SLK 320, but Mercedes still managed to outshine the Crossfire due to its badge appeal and a better fit and finish. The SLK oversold the Crossfire by a considerable margin as well, as more than 311k SLK were produced, compared to around 76k for the Crossfire.
Later on, Mercedes updated the SLK to the R171 platform, as it was obvious that the SLK did fairly decently when it comes to sales. As the years went by, Mercedes kept improving upon the SLK chassis, but the sales began to slowly decline.
Because of this, 2020 was the year when Mercedes decided to stop the production of the SLK entirely as the customer demand continued to shift towards SUVs. The SLK sure was an iconic Mercedes model, some considered it to be a “hair-dressers” car, but it was rather undeniable that the SLK offered decent driving characteristics.
Why do car manufacturers do collaborations?
The reasoning behind car collaborations is dependent upon the specific model in question. In regards to the Toyota Supra/BMW Z4 collab, it was mostly since both of these were being pitched in a similar manner.
Some joint developments like the legendary Audi RS2 by Audi/Porsche or the 500E by Mercedes/Porsche were a result of Porsche being broke and in need of serious financial support. Audi and Mercedes saw this as an opportunity to mix the best Porsche has to offer with the best of these two, and the sales certainly did confirm this.
Some collabs go even wider than that, such a collab is taking place with Mercedes and Aston Martin right now. Aston Martin is a small volume luxury sports car maker from the UK which struggled for existence in the same way Porsche did in the days of the Audi RS2 or the 500E.
Aston Martin did not have the money, nor the infrastructure to produce infotainment systems that could compare to those in a Mercedes. Because of this, Mercedes and Aston Martin signed a contract in which Mercedes provides the infotainment systems. Not too long ago, Mercedes also started providing the powertrain for some AM models.
What is the best jointly-developed car of all time?
The best jointly developed car of all time is certainly the McLaren F1. The McLaren F1 was a car equipped with a BMW V12 engine, tail-light from a London bus, and the mirrors from a Volkswagen Corrado.
The McLaren F1 is incredibly valuable. The prices for these vehicles are over the 15-20 million dollars region, or even more for some models. The F1 was a true feat of engineering and one of the greatest cars ever produced. The car was famous for many racing victories and the ability to travel as fast as 240mph, in the 90s.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of jointly developed cars?
The obvious benefit is the cost, as many of these would never be produced any other way. Most jointly-developed cars are limited in quantity and because of this, it may not be financially feasible to do it alone. Furthermore, these cars often offer the best characteristics of the brands involved, such is the case with the F1.
The drawback, on the other hand, is the fact that servicing and parts are a lot more expensive, as these cars often need special equipment, as was the case with the Crossfire. Moreover, if these joint developments are not executed as they are supposed to be, they might hurt the brand appeal of their respectable developers.