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EVs not off the cards for Renault in Aus

Post modern: So far, Renault Australia has only imported the Kangoo ZE, which has been part of a trial with Australia Post for a number of years now.

Renault Australia could use EVs to build the brand: Normand

13 Mar 2017


RENAULT could still sell electric vehicles in Australia as a way to build the brand’s reputation and highlight some of its technology, according to the company’s new EV boss.

In Europe, Renault sells the Zoe fully electrified light hatch, a spicy 340kW/640Nm version of which was unveiled at the Geneva motor show, as well as light-commercial electric vehicles including the Kangoo ZE and Master ZE.

Renault has introduced a number of Kangoo ZEs to Australia as part of ongoing trials with organisations such as Australia Post, but has been hesitant to offer any passenger EV models because of the expected high price and lack of government incentives.

Renault senior vice-president of electric vehicles and former vice-president of Asia Pacific region (including Australia) Gilles Normand told GoAuto that any electrification strategy for the Australian market would be more about building the brand than achieving significant volume.

“In countries like Australia, where Renault is known for sporty cars, and known for LCVs, C-segment cars like Megane, but obviously we are still a small player in the Australian market,” he said on the Renault stand at the Geneva show. “We are not very much above one per cent market share.

 center imageLeft: Renault senior vice-president of electric vehicles Gilles Normand

“However, when you bring in EVs, it gives you a lot of credit in terms of innovation. And more than selling EVs, you are selling as well the Renault (brand), the French engineering and our roots and genetics. This is why we are very much supportive of going along with any initiative from the team in Australia to support them in that direction.”

The French car-maker’s Australian arm was set to launch the Fluence ZE electric sedan back in 2012, but the plan was put on ice about six months before battery swapping company Better Place – which was going to partner with Renault in the rollout of the Fluence – filed for bankruptcy.

Mr Normand acknowledged that it was difficult to sell EVs in Australia because of the lack of incentives or infrastructure, but highlighted the success of such vehicles in European cities that have strict emissions laws.

“Now more in Europe, downtown cities will restrict ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles, because of emission particles of CO2.

“If you go with EV with LCVs or a car, there is no restriction. In Paris you can go anywhere, any day. So the benefit at the beginning was a little bit of incentive in amount, but it can be given in a different way, which is I give you benefit if you are driving a ZE car.”

Mr Normand said Renault’s EV strategy involves pushing models such as the Zoe, adding that there were “a lot of possibilities” for that car. Following that, the plan is to increase market coverage of EVs by segment, which it has started to do in the LCV space.

The other aspect of the strategy to encourage growth, is to push into the growing Chinese EV market with a yet-to-be-seen electrified city runabout.

“Our sales are predominately done in Europe. We want to expand outside Europe,” Mr Normand said. “Typically the largest market is China. We think that in China there is a huge market potential. But for that you need to have special product, which is an A-segment car, which is smaller than the Zoe. But with a very different price point.

“Here we are speaking about $8000 as a price point without incentive. So here we are in the process of development of this A-segment car. It will be very modern, ultimate electric technology developed together with Dongfeng, our partner in China.”

Timing for the new micro car in China is unclear.

Finally Mr Normand suggested that Renault could offer sportier, more exciting EVs down the track, as witnessed by the wild Zoe e-sport concept from Geneva that can race from 0-100km/h in 3.2 seconds.

“The direction is to make sure that EV is completely part of our strategy.

Renault is passionate about cars. So you can expect we are passionate about EV cars. And this (Zoe e-sport) is a good example that EV and passion are a good match.”

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