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Renault cautious on EV range expansion

New for old: Renault says it will update its EV models continuously, rather than introducing full new model changes with similar life cycles to internal combustion cars.

Euro EV pioneer Renault prefers optimising existing models over new product rollout

25 Sep 2017


HAVING established itself as the market leader for electric vehicles in Europe, Renault is focusing on applying running upgrades to its five electrified models rather than investing heavily in expanding the range or the quick development of next-generation versions.

Speaking with GoAuto at a media event in Paris earlier this month, Renault global electric car sales and marketing director Guillame Berthier said the company’s strategy was “to focus on what we have already”.

One in four electric vehicles sold in Europe is a Renault, with the Zoe light hatch commanding almost 27 per cent of the passenger EV market and the Kangoo ZE compact van accounting for more than a third of the continent’s electrified commercial vehicle sales.

The French company also sells the zany Twizy quadricycle, Fluence ZE small sedan (also sold as Samsung SM3) and will introduce an electric version of its Master large van by the end of this year.

“We are the only one in the world with five models,” said Mr Berthier, who used the revised Zoe as an example of Renault’s strategy of improving on existing products rather than developing new ones.

“We haven’t changed much but by focussing on the battery we were able to double the range with the same car,” he said.

“This is so far our strategy rather than announcing a huge range like everybody is doing – we prefer to do it right now and put them on the market right now.”

The Zoe launched in 2012, meaning that if it was a conventional combustion-powered vehicle it would be now due for its final update before the launch of a completely redesigned version.

But Mr Berthier saw electric vehicles as having longer product lifecycles, at least until they match or exceed the sales volumes of their internal combustion equivalents.

“When we launched the Zoe in 2012 most of our competitors said we were crazy and it was true that sales did not increase at the pace we wanted at the beginning,” he said.

“We were cautious not to over-spend, we want do it well and step by step. I think in the future when electric cars are the majority of retail sales, probably the lifecycle will be quite similar to what we experience today.”

But Mr Berthier suggested an all-new version of the Zoe or any other of its products would be brought to market if competition got hot enough.

“We will do all the improvement required by the market to keep being the leader in Europe,” he said.

“Today in Europe one electric car out of four is Renault so of course we will do what we need to do to keep this position.”

An exception to the new model development rule is China, where Renault is working with its joint-venture partner Dongfeng to produce an EV for the Chinese market.

Contrary to reports, Mr Berthier said the Chinese project was a sub-Zoe passenger car rather than an SUV and that no decision had been made to export the model to markets outside China.

He said it would use a new platform rather than share underpinnings with the rear-engined Twingo micro car, which was too expensive due to being designed for European standards and regulations.

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