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Exclusive: Koleos replacement imminent

Looking good: The new-generation Koleos will be bigger and more stylish than the current model, as illustrated by our artist’s impression shown here. Digital image: William Vicente.

Larger Koleos replacement to give Renault a shot in the arm in mid-size SUV race

Renault logo5 Apr 2016

By TIM NICHOLSON

RENAULT Australia has promised the soon-to-be-revealed replacement for its ageing Koleos mid-size SUV will be larger and better equipped but no more expensive than the current model when it arrives later this year, giving the French brand its best shot yet in the biggest-selling SUV segment in Australia.

The still-secret model is expected to be unveiled as the Maxthon at the Beijing motor show later this month, while the European-market version – likely to still retain the Koleos nameplate – is not anticipated until later in the year, likely the Paris show in October.

GoAuto understands it will carry a less polarising design than the current Koleos, taking cues from other vehicles overseen by chief designer Laurens van den Acker, such as the Kadjar crossover and Talisman sedan.

The new-generation model will be produced at the same Renault-Samsung plant in South Korea as the current Koleos and will be built on the Renault-Nissan Alliance CMF CD platform that underpins the Nissan X-Trail and Qashqai.

Despite reports suggesting it will be offered with seven seats, the Koleos replacement is not expected to offer a third row from launch, forcing Renault Australia to consider other options to fill the gap in its line-up – including the latest Scenic MPV (see separate story).

Various spy shots of the vehicle well into development have shown the new-generation SUV will be larger than the outgoing model and sit at the top of the mid-size SUV segment, competing directly with the likes of the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Tucson.

In an exclusive interview with GoAuto, Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar said the arrival of the new SUV would help broaden the range and bring a cohesive look to the car-maker’s local line-up.

“It does grow up a bit,” he said of the increase in size over the model it replaces. “And I think the very important and exciting part of it for us is that we will start to see a cohesive model family under the van den Acker designs now.

“He has really done a wonderful job of bringing all the models in to one family and understanding the relationship between each. When you start to see Clio, Captur, new Megane range, Koleos, that really gives us quite a solid passenger-car portfolio in all key segments.

“By the time we have got all of those passenger cars launched, with our van portfolio and finally the addition of the pick-up, we will be in a very big chunk of the market.”

35 center imageLeft: Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar. Mr Hocevar said Renault Australia would not reposition the new model to come in at a higher price point than the current series, which ranges from $29,500 to $43,500, plus on-road costs.

“It is a highly competitive segment,” he said. “We see an opportunity to grow off the back of Koleos. We have taken that decision to focus on one model and therefore I think you will see a level of pricing and specification that is competitive and relative to those competitors that we are focusing on at the moment.

“We won’t be repositioning this car higher up in the market, in short. I think that it will become immediately apparent to customers that on size, specification and price, we have got a really attractive offering. If the design is going to appeal to the heart, the stuff that is going to appeal to head is the five-year warranty, capped-price servicing, improved values…” Timing for Australia is still unclear but the new model should launch soon after its official reveal and will be in showrooms this year to replace the current eight-and-a-half-year-old model.

Renault has already announced that it would not offer the slightly smaller Kadjar SUV in Australia, despite the fact it is built in right-hand drive, as it would end up being positioned too close to the Koleos replacement.

Mr Hocevar said an Australian-spec Kadjar would have to be sourced from Spain and this could force pricing that would cross over with the Koleos.

“We wanted to look at sourcing elsewhere (but) we haven’t been able to make that work,” he said.

“What it basically means is that you are not going to end up with a high degree of price variation between a Kadjar and a Koleos, unless of course you start to push Koleos up. And we didn’t want to do that.

“(Consumers) are looking for a medium SUV, Koleos is in the upper end size of that, Kadjar is on the smaller-to-medium size within that segment. A high-specification Kadjar would be well and truly into the middle of the range of Koleos anyway.

“The three very important variables – size, specification and price – do we have an opportunity to try and get those right and be more efficient in the way we communicate in the market?” Mr Hocevar added that Renault had “a better opportunity” to build “volume and profit” with one mid-size SUV than two given the brand’s position in the overall new-car market.

“If we were at two or three per cent market share and a bigger brand competing on a product-by-product level with different competitors say than where we are at moment, that would be a different story. When we look at our passenger portfolio we are a very small player in this market,” he said.

“There is plenty of opportunity – we have built a good network to take advantage of that opportunity. And we have now got the product arriving to start to fulfil the investment that has been made by our network.

“But we are still conscious that we have got to walk before we can run.” Koleos customers are the most “loyal and satisfied” Renault customers in Australia, according to Mr Hocevar, who said the company would prioritise marketing the new model to existing owners once it launches.

“From a launch point of view we will certainly turn our attention to trying to ‘loyalise’ our Koleos customers. I think we will have a really interesting proposition for them,” he said.

“We have some opportunities to do things we haven’t been able to do before. New territory to explore, let’s say. We will have a much stronger focus on pre-sale activity and that pre-sale activity will not just be consumer focused, it will be towards FMOs (fleet management organisations), it will be towards organisations looking at residual values, towards insurers, towards all stakeholders let’s say.

“We want to do a lot of that preparatory work to get a good understanding of the vehicle, where it is going to sit and what our ambitions are. We need to get everybody to understand the journey we want to take with this vehicle. It will probably be one of our most substantial communications campaigns ever in the Australian market in terms of spend.” The Koleos arrived in 2008 and despite sitting towards the back of the mid-size SUV pack in terms of sales, it has consistently grown its share of the segment each year and had its best annual sales result in 2014 when Renault shifted 1709 units, up from 1016 in 2009 – its first full year on sale.

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