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Exclusive: Renault gets creative to launch Zoe in Aus

Zero sum: Renault Australia has received government approval to import and sell the all-electric Zoe hatchback Down Under and is working on a plan to make it affordable in the absence of any local government incentives.

Inventive, not incentive could bring Zoe EV to Oz without gov backup: Renault

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Renault logo6 Jul 2017

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

RENAULT Australia is exploring creative and proactive ways of bringing its battery-powered Zoe hatchback to this market, having given up waiting for governments to set the ball rolling by offering incentives to electric vehicle (EV) buyers.

At the 2016 Paris motor show last October, Renault confirmed a Zoe had been shipped to Australia for evaluation purposes, but in May this year made a more serious commitment in obtaining Australian Design Rule (ADR) approval from the federal government to import and sell the Zoe passenger car here.

Undertaking this costly process usually signals a clear intention to introduce a new model to market.

Speaking exclusively with GoAuto at the Megane sedan and wagon launch in Victoria this week, Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar revealed the company was working on an “unconventional and hands-on approach” to overcoming the lack of government incentives that “make it very difficult to have a conventional approach to launching EVs within the Australian market”.

“We continue to look for new and interesting ways to collaborate with other like-minded parties on how to commercialise electric vehicles in Australia and we hope to do something in this space very soon,” said Mr Hocevar.

“We can’t talk about it just yet, but in the fullness of time we will divulge more.”

Now the Zoe is approved for Australian sale, Renault could be on the cusp of a two-pronged EV sales strategy here – especially given the fact it has been operating trials of the all-electric Kangoo ZE van with Australia Post since May 2014.

Mr Hocevar described the Kangoo ZE and Zoe as “two vehicles in our range that should be very interesting for the Australian market”.

“Both have had a significant range enhancement of late and those are two vehicle types that suit many operators in Australia,” he said, referring to the updates that doubled the Zoe’s theoretical battery range to 400 kilometres and a boosted the Kangoo ZE from 170km to 270km on a full charge.

The Australia Post trial is ongoing and has attracted the attention of other business and government entities. Mr Hocevar named energy supplier AGL as among five organisations Renault was working with on the Kangoo ZEA long-time proponent of electric vehicles, Mr Hocevar described Australia as “an EV-ready market,” but one that was “still not an EV-friendly environment”.

“I say that because most people spend their time driving around large urban islands,” he said.

“However Australia is still not an EV-friendly environment and I mean that in the sense that it doesn’t provide the kick-starter incentives that most progressive markets around the world seem to have in place.”

What Renault Australia comes up with remains to be seen, but it is likely to incorporate the European sales model under which the vehicle and battery pack are separate transactions, the latter remaining property of Renault and leased to Zoe owners.

This helps lower the initial outlay, but in many European markets it is also supplemented by some form of government tax break, registration discount or subsidised vehicle purchase price not offered in Australia, and which Renault is attempting to overcome here.

Mr Hocevar said that without getting inventive in the absence of incentives, “it is just not going to work in the traditional way of bringing a car to market”.

“Do a launch, wholesale it to dealers, run a marketing campaign and see what happens – that’s just not going to fly.”

It is more a case of when rather than if Australians will see electric vehicles in local Renault showrooms.

“We are big advocates of EV,” said Mr Hocevar. “Our dealers understand it’s going to be part of the landscape going forward.”

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