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Renault goes for more doors

Performance leader: The 2.0-litre Clio Sport will spearhead Renault's small hatchback lineup.

Renault has plotted a safe strategy for its return to the Australian market

Renault logo10 Apr 2001

RENAULT Australia will play it safe when it launches the Clio small car range in September, offering only five-door versions of the volume-selling 1.4 and 1.6-litre models.

Only the Clio Renault Sport 2.0-litre will be offered as a three-door.

The move comes not long after Alfa Romeo importer Ateco decided against bringing in the three-door version of the 147, and also in the wake of Audi's abandonment of the three-door A3 in favour of the five-door in all bar the turbo models.

The "cooking" Clios will be the second wave of Renault launches in Australia and will arrive bearing a dramatic mid-life facelift.

The re-entry line-up for Renault consists of Scenic compact people- mover, the RX4 4WD, Megane Cabrio and Clio Renault Sport - meaning that car will be facelifted just months into its Australian life on sale from May 21.

The Laguna 3.0-litre V6 is now expected in October in hatch and estate form, while the 2.0-litre hatch Laguna has been pushed back to December and even possibly early in the new year.

Australia will be at the forefront of right-hand drive markets taking the facelifted Clio, which is tipped to show off Renault's radical styling direction showcased by the Vel Satis luxury hatch launched at Geneva earlier this year.

The distinctive styling includes bold new headlights, an aggressive grille and the prominent use of the Renault diamond logo front and rear.

In line with the company's new policy, the Renault name will not appear on the bootlid.

Despite volume aspirations that would make it the number one European importer, pricing is tipped to start just under $20,000 for the base model version of the Clio, where it will keep company with the likes of the Peugeot 206.

"All I can say on pricing is we will be competitive with our targeted opposition, and the moment our target is the other Europeans," said Renault Australia managing director and chief executive officer Leon Daphne.

Mr Daphne holds the same titles at Nissan Australia, which is overseeing the re-entry of Renault to the Australian market. The French giant has a controlling interest in Nissan worldwide.

Mr Daphne said he had no concerns about facelifting the Clio Renault Sport so soon after launch "The Clio Sport is a performance vehicle which is important to have in the range from the start. From what the dealers tell us, all those vehicles are pre-sold anyway," he said.

Renault re-launch: Preparations for the re-launch of Renault in Australia have entered their final stage with the dealers and a large media contingent touring some of the company's showpiece facilities in France this month.

Thirteen of the 15 start-up dealers and their wives spent five days in France last week.

Their visit included the Renault Museum in Paris, the Technocentre in Versailles and a future products briefing.

They also drove the Australian launch line-up of vehicles - the Scenic and RX4, the Megane Cabriolet and the Clio Renault Sport - which go on sale May 21.

The journalists - also chaperoned by Renault Australia managing director and chief executive officer Leon Daphne, Renault Australia director Richard Wilson and marketing director Richard Nyhout - will complete a similar program this week.

"This trip gives us the opportunity to show the dealers and you guys that Renault is an automobile company of significance in the world," Mr Daphne said.

"It's an opportunity for you to hear how the future is very, very positive about the way Renault is approaching globalisation, which has faltered a bit in previous times." LAUNCH PROGRAM May - Scenic, RX4, Megane Cabrio, Clio Renault Sport Sept - Clio 5-door hatchback 1.4 and 1.6-litre October - Laguna 3.0-litre V6 5-door hatchback and estate December/Jan 2002 - Laguna 2.0-litre hatch

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