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Renault Australia awaits Alaskan, Alpine go-ahead

Tray chic: The Nissan Navara-based Alaskan was on display at the Paris motor show, and is still on the cards for Australia.

Business cases for Alaskan ute, Alpine coupe still up in air at Renault Australia

Renault logo10 Jul 2017

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

RENAULT Australia’s launch roadmap for the next 12 months or so consists of updates to or new variants of existing models, with the Alpine sportscar and Alaskan ute remaining unconfirmed and some way off.

The facelifted Clio RS will soon join the rest of the updated range that arrived in local showrooms at the beginning of May, with a facelifted Captur compact SUV also just a couple of months away.

Renault’s best-seller, the Koleos mid-size SUV, will gain a diesel engine before the end of this year and the Kangoo small van will receive a much-needed automatic transmission for diesel-powered long-wheelbase variants.

Next year the much-anticipated Megane RS hot hatch will arrive following its global reveal at the Frankfurt motor show this coming September, with Australian deliveries being fast-tracked and expected to arrive in the first half.

Renault Australia cannot wait to get its hands on the Nissan Navara-based Alaskan ute and aluminium-bodied Alpine sports coupe, but must wait in line for a business case to be approved as those models roll out to their key markets.

Speaking with GoAuto at last week’s Megane sedan and wagon launch in Albury-Wodonga, Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar declined to commit to even ballpark launch timing for the Alaskan, but suggested that speculation about local launch timing of the Alaskan had been overstated.

“Everybody’s expectations on the timeline on this vehicle are still a little out of kilter,” he said.

“Renault didn’t have an existing model so news of the concept car and news of what was being done began very early in the whole development phase.

“Now everybody has a clear impression that the project is taking a long time to progress, but in reality it is moving along, by and large, as expected.” The Alaskan went on sale in Colombia last October and is being rolled out across Latin America, with initial production in Mexico to be joined by factories in Argentina and Spain.

“We are a prime market for utes and of course Renault Australia and our dealer network are very keen to get access to this vehicle at the earliest possible time,” said Mr Hocevar.

“But there is still a series of markets where it needs to be rolled out,” he cautioned.

“Our business case has to align with everybody else’s and it won’t be until that is validated we will be able to confirm whether we are a go or no-go. Only time will tell on the success of our business case and how we would package and bring the vehicle to market.” It was a similar story with Alpine, for which Mr Hocevar said there are a “whole spectrum of things that need to be considered in the business case for Australia”.

“We’ve put forward a proposal that we hope meets their requirements and if that is accepted, then we will hopefully get ourselves into the world-wide rollout of the vehicle and if it is not accepted we won’t see the vehicle here.

“We are continuing to work with them on our business case. It is still not complete so the vehicle is still not yet confirmed for Australia. We remain very interested of course, but we have to get all of our stars to align.” Unlike the Alaskan and Alpine that Renault Australia is trying hard to bring here, the Kadjar SUV that fits between the small-segment Captur and mid-size Koleos remains firmly on the back-burner, even though Mr Hocevar admitted that “a lot of our dealers think it would have a home here in Australia”.

He said the low level of consumer hesitation between the Kadjar and larger Koleos was at odds with Renault Australia’s “level of ability to invest in adding another SUV into the mix,” and that the company would rather focus its resources on the South Korean-sourced Koleos that has “more advantageous sourcing, time to market and entry pricing”.

“It (Koleos) just works for us and we’re seeing it now because it is really hitting its straps on volume.” But Renault Australia is not closing the door on Kadjar for good, as the brand continues successfully establishing itself in this market.

“In time, with more share and the expansion of our dealer network, does that create an opening for another small SUV? Possibly – it is certainly a case of never say never,” said Mr Hocevar.

“But I wouldn’t like to compromise our focus on making Koleos successful by introducing it at this point in time.” He quickly shot down the idea of the micro-sized Twingo coming to Australia, or the mid-size Talisman sedan that replaced the Latitude that sold in small numbers here between 2011 and 2015.

The SUV-styled Grand Scenic seven-seat people mover was once under consideration for Australia, but Mr Hocevar dismissed it as occupying too small a segment locally.

“With too much model diversification we’d just split our resources, people and investment and it is just not worth it,” he surmised.

But as GoAuto has reported, the all-electric Zoe light hatch and battery-powered Kangoo ZE small van have a strong chance of joining the mainstream Renault line-up in Australia.

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