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Buyer trust established, Renault turns on the charm

Cap in hand: Long service intervals, even longer warranties and a capped-price servicing plan have helped overcome Renault’s lack of reputation in the Australian market.

Renault ready to start engaging with potential customers on a more emotional level

10 Jul 2017

MEASURES put in place by Renault Australia that appeal to buyers’ rational side are now established enough that the French brand is ready to start engaging on a more emotional level.

Speaking with GoAuto at last week’s Megane sedan and wagon launch in Albury-Wodonga, Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar said the company had “done a pretty good job of addressing the head part” of the head-and-heart equation buyers go through when choosing a car brand.

“We’ve gone and told people it’s OK to trust Renault as a brand, we do have good quality vehicles, we have well-supported vehicles, we have a strong dealer network, we’ve got cost-effective servicing and we’ve done a lot of work on improving the residual values of our products … our approved used-car program has been a really successful mechanism to help support that.”

In April 2011 Renault Australia introduced the five-year, unlimited kilometre passenger car warranty with five years of roadside assistance on all passenger cars except performance-oriented models such as the Clio RS, Megane RS and Megane GT, which were included in the scheme from July 2014.

From the beginning of 2013 it commenced a permanent three-year capped-price servicing offer, with annual maintenance intervals set at $299 for passenger vehicles and $349 for light commercials.

“That covers a lot of the rational items people consider when they are looking at a new vehicle,” said Mr Hocevar.

“The next phase layered on top of that, but not at the expense of the first, is to address the heart.”

Mr Hocevar cited Renault’s brand heritage, motorsport pedigree, design philosophy and “Frenchness in a contemporary sense” as emotionally appealing aspects that could woo would-be buyers.

“That’s the next phase of building the brand,” he said. “Once we’ve addressed the head and the heart completely, and it will take time, we will become better known to Australians and hopefully bring more of them to the brand.”

In response to comments made to GoAuto last month by visiting Renault-Nissan Alliance chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn that the company’s brands “can do much better” in Australia, Mr Hocevar described the outcome of his meeting with the big boss as “acknowledgement that the brand wasn’t well known in Australia and we had been on a good journey to get it up to its current level”.

“Our take-out message was, ‘well done on where you’ve got so far, you’ve still got some work to do and the support is there to make that happen’,” said Mr Hocevar.

“I think he has got full awareness of what we are asking for going forward and I am sure Renault globally will do their best to support us with the right products.”

Further to building brand recognition and sales, Renault Australia is working to ensure the customers it has already won over remain happy with their decision and carefully growing the dealership network to provide greater coverage, satisfy demand and demonstrate to prospective buyers its commitment to this market.

Despite experiencing a 500 per cent increase in Australian sales volume since 2010, Mr Hocevar said Renault had avoided customer satisfaction growing pains by “taking a really responsible approach to make sure we were not only putting more cars in the traffic, that we made sure we had the right infrastructure and the right dealer network to support those customers”.

“The last thing we wanted to do was to win customers over only to lose them after one model lifecycle.”

It appears to be working, judging by Mr Hocevar’s claim that the service departments of Renault dealerships are retaining 76 per cent of the brand’s 10-year car parc.

“That’s a really high number and we want to keep our dealers working hard to retain those customers – and of course that point of contact with the customers is very important,” he said.

“I would say our customer satisfaction levels are constantly on the improve and that’ s an important part of our business, which we measure deeply and incentivise.”

Since Mr Hocevar joined Renault Australia in 2010, the brand’s dealership count has risen from 21 to 55 and is expected to reach 58 by the end of this year.

Mr Hocevar said careful monitoring of dealership profitability had helped maintain throughput at each site and avoided adding new outlets to the detriment of existing ones.

“I’m pleased to say that two of the major metropolitan dealer appointments that will take place in the second half of this year are with existing dealers known to us,” he said.

“They are wanting to expand their footprint with us and I think that is a good sign. We don’t necessarily want lots more owners of dealerships, but we need to make sure we have the right geographic cover so they can reach our customers.”

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