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Renault harnesses husky Alaskan ute

Tonne of ambition: Renault’s Z-U60 concept will morph into the French company’s new ute, the Alaskan, for world markets including Australia where it is expected to be powered by the same 2.3-litre turbo-diesel as the Nissan Navara on which the ute is based.

Navara-based Alaskan ute to spearhead Renault’s world commercial vehicle ambition


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3 Sep 2015

A KEY weapon in Renault’s ambitious battle plan to become a major global player in light-commercial vehicles has been previewed in the form of a concept for the French company’s up-coming one-tonne ute.

Based on sister company Nissan’s new NP300 Navara, the ute will be called Alaskan when the production version is revealed in the first half of 2016 before it starts rolling down the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s Spanish production line bound for global markets, including Australia at a date to be confirmed.

Renault says its ambition is to take its LCV operations from being a top regional player in Europe, where it has been number one since 1998, to the top of the global rankings.

Renault vice-president and global head of light-commercial vehicles Ashwani Gupta said: “To achieve this, we have planted the right seeds by moving into new markets, introducing new products, striking up new partnerships and providing our customers with an upgraded experience.”

Ultimately, a Mercedes-Benz ute – rumoured to be called GLT – will also be spun off the same Navara base under the Daimler-Renault model and technology sharing agreement.

The Renault version will be powered by the same Renault-Nissan Alliance 2.3-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel engine as the main powerplant for the Navara and Renault’s own Master van. In Navara, the engine produces up to 140kW of power and 463Nm of torque, while Master has up to 120kW and 360Nm.

In Australia, the ute will be sold through the Renault’s full chain of 46 Renault dealerships in including its new Pro+ commercial vehicles specialists.

So far, only a handful of these Pro+ dealerships are operational, but Renault Australia expects to have 15 in place by the end of next year.

The Renault ute concept – called Z-U60 – is described as a one-tonne show truck, although the vehicle is not expected to grace this month’s Frankfurt motor show where the all-new Megane small car will take centre stage on the Renault stand.

Renault says the concept paves the way for “a pick-up that will have a global calling”.

It says the production version will be “similar in spirit” to the Z-U60 concept, with the same dimensions.

While the concept is a five-seat dual-cab pick-up, Renault has promised a range of body types and powertrains.

It describes the vehicle as a “high-end pick-up for business and leisure use, as well as everyday motoring”.

“It will capitalise on Renault’s crossover know-how with models like Captur and Kadjar,” it says in the media release with the images.

Renault corporate design senior vice president Laurens van den Acker said the styling of the Z-U60 concept stuck to the rules of the pick-up segment, with “impressive dimensions and a visual sense of power and robustness”.

“At the same time, we have dialled in specific Renault cues in the form of an attractive, status-enhancing front-end design.”

The concept has 21-inch alloy wheels, LED tail-lights and a centrally mounted aluminium exhaust pipe.

“Best-in-class” fuel economy is promised, along with impressive power output and acceleration performance.

It is the second ute to be unveiled by Renault this year, following the June launch of the South American-made small Duster Oroch. Based on the down-market Duster crossover that is sold as the Dacia in most of Europe, the Oroch is unconfirmed for Australia.

Here, Renault’s commercial vehicle line-up that currently comprises the Kangoo, Trafic and Master van ranges, has accounted for 2285 of Renault Australia’s 7691 sales so far this year.

While overall Renault sales in this market are up 27.2 per cent, sales of its vans have risen 13.6 per cent.

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