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Geneva show: Posh Clio heralds premium Renaults

French finery: The 1995 Renault Initiale concept previewed the brand’s unsuccessful stab at premium models with the Avantime and Vel Satis.

Luxury versions of existing Renault models to kick off Initiale Paris premium brand

6 Mar 2013


RENAULT’S planned premium brand, Initiale Paris, will undergo a phased launch starting with a high-end version of the new Clio light car later this year.

The next stage will be a special vehicle line up – perhaps like Citroen’s DS range – before Initiale Paris is launched as a standalone luxury brand in a decade or so, in a similar relationship as between Infiniti and Renault’s Alliance partner, Nissan.

Renault senior vice-president of design, Laurens van den Acker, said at the Geneva motor show that Renault would tread softly, with a slow-burn introduction of Initiale Paris – keeping in mind that Renault’s last foray into premium cars flopped with the Avantime and Vel Satis models of the late 1990s.

“It is a long-term investment, you cannot do it from one day to the next,” he said.

“The first step is a label, the second step is a special line-up of vehicles and the third step is a proper brand with its own cars and then you are talking 10, 15, 20 years.”

Mr Van den Acker likened the first steps of Initiale Paris to the Baccara designation it used in the 1980s and ‘90s for luxurious flagship versions of its sedan models.

 center imageLeft: Renault senior vice-president of design Laurens van den Acker

“We start slow, this year you will see a Clio Initiale Paris, if we ever did an Espace (a replacement of Renault’s people-mover) we would do an Intiale Paris on that one too so we have an approach that is more along the lines of Renault Baccara. But little by little, we will get more courageous.”

He said Initiale Paris would sit at the top of the Renault tree along with sports car brand Alpine – which will launch a vehicle in three years – with Dacia serving the low end of the market and Renault in the middle.

“Half the money made in the car industry is made in premium, so when you don’t have a premium brand you are not exposed to this profit,” said Mr Van den Acker, adding that the brand would have more impact in markets such as China and the US than at home in Europe.

“It is not notably in Europe but it’s the US, it’s China, if you say we are not doing premium that is OK but you are robbing yourself of potential profits so that is what’s behind it.”

He said significant profit was also made at the low end of the market, which was already covered by Romanian brand Dacia.

“We are trying to do two things expand our coverage in the low end where we are entering new markets – and (the Dacia) Duster (compact soft-roader) is a good example because wherever we put it into the market it sells like crazy – and a the same time we are planting the seeds for a premium adventure.”

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