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Frankfurt show: Renault mulls Thai ute production

Definite maybe: Nissan’s ability to fit Renault’s Alaskan ute down its Thai production lines might hold the key to the source of Alaskan for Australia.

Thailand still on the cards to supply Renault’s Alaskan ute for Australia

16 Sep 2015

By RON HAMMERTON in FRANKFURT

RENAULT has confirmed it is weighing up the possibility of Thai production for its new Alaskan one-tonne ute, but cautions it is far from a certainty.

Building the Nissan NP300 Navara-based Alaskan at Nissan’s Navara plant in Thailand would be first prize for Renault Australia which would benefit from shorter supply lines and the Thai-Australia free trade agreement.

According to Renault executive vice president Jerome Stoll, it is not so easy.

He told journalists at the Frankfurt motor show this week that adding a fourth plant for Alaskan production would be a cost burden, requiring careful consideration.

“We already have three – it is a lot,” he said. “Four, it is becoming an additional burden and we have to get the volume for that, you know.”

Mr Stoll confirmed Alaskan would go into production alongside the closely related Navara in Spain, Mexico and Argentina.

Initial right-hand drive production might come from Spain, due to its proximity to the UK and the plant’s experience with building RHD Navaras for Australia.

As for Thailand, Mr Stoll said that apart from business case considerations, any decision to build the Renault version of the ute there would be up to Nissan.

“It also depends of the strategy of our partner Nissan – whether they have room or not,” he said. “It would be great to have it in Thailand, but &hellip.”

Mr Stoll said the company was investigating whether efficiency savings of Thai production were big enough to offset the cost of setting up there, along with logistics costs.

“We are looking as the bases of production in order to make the car competitive, especially in Asia,” he said.

“The interest is that Thailand is that it is a right-hand-drive production base and this makes sense for the rest of ASEAN and Australia.

“It makes sense, but we then also make sure Nissan can do that. Sometimes we seem like we are in competition. I do not believe that &hellip.”

Mr Stoll said he could not say when a decision would be made in this, adding that he was “in constant discussion” on the matter.

Compared with Navara, the Alaskan gets new panels forward of the A pillars, as well as a different treatment across the back.

So far, only a concept has been shown, but we don’t expected too many sheetmetal changes when the production version emerges in the first half of next year.

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