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Goodbye, KMW and Nexter, Meet KNDS: Why Companies that Make Leopard 2 and Caesar Give Up on Own Brands

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Enhanced Main Battle Tank project developed by KNDS / Image credit: KNDS
Enhanced Main Battle Tank project developed by KNDS / Image credit: KNDS

German Krauss-Maffei Wegmann is known for Leopard 2 tanks, PzH 2000 howitzers and Puma IFVs, while French Nexter – for Caesar howitzers and VBCI infantry vehicles. The two companies united in one KNDS holding in 2015, now introduce their new brand

From now on, German KMW and French Nexter, including all their subsidiary companies, will appear under the new joint brand KNDS, which stands for KMW+NEXTER Defense Systems. The update was shared by the press service of the holding that actually was created back in 2015.

In other words, there is little change in legal terms, it's more about "image harmonization," as reflected in the official statement. Although it sounds strange coming from weapon-making companies, the fact is the arms industry has its share of branding, rebranding, naming, and all that marketing stuff.

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Leopard 2 is the main product of KMW
Leopard 2 is the main product of KMW / Illustrative photo credit: KNDS

When in 2000 French-Italian Aérospatiale-Matra, Spanish CASA, and German Daimler-Benz Aerospace AG (by the way, already a conglomerate of Daimler-Benz, MTU, Dornier, and Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm) united in a single venture, their new name Airbus also looked extraordinary yet was objectively more helpful.

Of course, it would take some time for the new brand to get into people's minds, as there is still some confusion caused by AgustaWestland, Alenia Aermacchi, and Oto Melara going under the common name Leonardo that united almost the entire Italian defense industry in 2016.

So for a while, we will still see Leonard 2 mentioned as produced by KMW, or Caesar SPG by Nexter in the media that haven't adjusted to the KNDS brand yet. But the thing is, the introduction of one brand for all its products was a fairly pragmatic decision because the company aims to become a pan-European supplier of land weapons and systems.

CAESAR self-propelled artillery system
CAESAR self-propelled artillery system is Nexter's one of the main export assets / Illustrative photo credit: KNDS

The consolidation and joint strategic governance, as the holding noted in the statement, "will make a significant contribution to the standardization of land forces in Europe and the other customers of Europe’s defense industry."

This is how it works. When there are "national" brands, everyone understands that Caesar is a French howitzer, PzH 2000 is a German one; Leclerc is a French tank but a Leopard 2 is German. Hence it's only natural that the French Army would seek an opportunity to arm itself with French weapons, while Bundeswehr will always look toward German-made arms. The same goes for other types of weapons, be it tracked Puma or wheeled VBCI, Dingo or Griffon armored vehicles.

Griffon vehicle
Griffon made by Nexter is supposed to become the main MRAP vehicle of the French Armed Forces / Illustrative photo credit: KNDS

It is quite a problem for a multinational holding, especially since the current amount of ordered work is far beyond the only national production paradigm. For instance, given that KMW had thousands of Leopard 2 tanks pending at some point, an order of over fifty tanks for various countries looks more reasonable in the long-term perspective with sights set on the late 2020s, as was the case for Norway.

That is why the merging of KMW and Nexter into one holding had already centralized a wide catalog of weapons both available and in development under one company that strives to become an all-European arms provider. In this situation, prefixes French-made or German-made in this catalog are indeed redundant.

RCH 155 self-propelled howitzer by KMW
RCH 155 self-propelled howitzer by KMW / Illustrative photo credit: KNDS
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