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Renault Arkana fast track plan for Australia

Coupe-style Renault Arkana SUV is high priority but fate rests on RHD production

14 Sep 2018

RENAULT Australia has confirmed its intention to bring the Arkana coupe-style SUV Down Under as soon as right-hand-drive (RHD) availability comes on stream.
Unveiled at the Moscow motor show in thinly-veiled concept guise in August, the production version of the coupe-crossover is currently said to be left-hand-drive only, meaning that it is unlikely to be offered in Australia before the end of 2020 at the earliest.
However, Renault Australia managing director Andrew Moore said he was quietly confident that the business case for RHD should ensure a production announcement for Australia in the near future.
“It’s not available in RHD,” he told GoAuto at the launch of the Renault Megane RS hot hatch in Queensland earlier this week. “We are pushing the case to the factory to develop the vehicle in RHD. Besides Australia, there are also a couple of other markets like Japan that are interested in the vehicle as well.
“And based on where the Arkana is at now in terms of just being revealed and so forth, it’s definitely not next year. And late 2020 is probably the best bet.”
Other than its exterior styling, little is known about the Arkana. Some publications suggest that it will use a highly-modified development of Renault’s ageing B0 platform that has underpinned most of the company’s light cars since the Clio II of 1998. 
Said to be dubbed the B0+, it is also believed to be headed for a range of future low-priced vehicles for Groupe Renault’s Romanian value brand, Dacia, such as the next-generation Duster as well as the Oroch that is also mooted for Australia.
Asked why Renault Australia is flagging the Arkana so early given that it may be more than two years away from launch, Mr Moore said it represents a huge opportunity for the brand’s growth aspirations in this country.
“Sure, it’s still potentially a fair way away,” he explained. “But the vehicle is out in the public space now and questions are being asked of me ‘am I interested in the vehicle’ and I am equally happy to put my hand up and say ‘yes, I really like that car and we are very interested in pursuing it for Australia’. 
“It’s quite a significant vehicle,” he said. “For the customer migrating from passenger cars to SUVs, it’s a magnificent looking vehicle with that tough SUV stance but it’s not as bulky as your standard SUV, so the feedback we’ve had is that the ride will be much more passenger-car like. 
“We’re targeting a more image-conscious customer with that, probably a professional customer. Your SUV is more a family-type vehicle, but with Arkana we’re seeing it as more city-orientated appealing to more professional couples.”
Mr Moore believes that the Arkana’s design and positioning will place it in a unique spot for buyers who may be in two minds about making the move to SUVs, so it should be priced accordingly at well under $35,000.
“It’s going to be a segment breaker,” he revealed. “I want to target consumers moving out of an old Mazda6 or Mazda3 or Corolla and coming into the SUV space but aren’t sure about making that full switch. This gives them an option in terms of a segment-breaker crossover.
“I see it as a brand halo, straddling Kadjar and Koleos, seeing it straddling those two but also a little aside of them as more of an image-focused vehicle.” 
While clearly designed to evoke German luxury coupe-crossover-SUVs such as the BMW X2, X4 and X6, Renault would emphasise the affordability as well as quality aspects of the Arkana in order to make it more appealing to mainstream consumers.
“Up against the BMW X2 and X4, those cars don’t really represent any form of value to the (mainstream price-conscious) consumer, as they’re obviously a prestige product,” Mr Moore said. “We’ll make sure the Arkana – if we can bring it in – will represent good value.”
Renault does not intend to slash any Koleos variants to make space for the Arkana should it receive the RHD production green light.
“In the Koleos line-up we already have a lean range,” Mr Moore said. “So, we probably don’t need to remove any of those variants bringing the other SUVs in.”
As reported in GoAuto back in August, the Arkana is set for a launch in Russia next year before going global, with the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s Renault-Samsung plant in South Korea shaping up to be Australia’s source factory, just as it is with the Koleos.
Groupe Renault senior vice-president of corporate design Laurens Van den Acker highlighted the uniqueness of the Arkana concept.
“The Arkana show car is a distinctive coupe-crossover, striking balance between the elegance of a sedan and the powerful stance of an SUV,” he said. “We have dialled in specific Renault cues, with a strong design, strength and sensuality with a French touch.”
No interior, chassis or powertrain images or other information have been revealed as yet. 
The Arkana’s Russian unveiling underlines Groupe Renault’s domination of that market, with a 28 per cent share equalling just over 448,000 sales last year. Along with Renault, the group also consists of Renault-Samsung Motors, Dacia, Lada and Alpine brands.

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