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Five-car range confirmed for Renault return

Stylish newcomer: Renault's new Laguna II hatchback will spearhead the French company's return to Australia.

Big plans are being hatched by the new distributor of Renault in Australia

Renault logo28 Nov 2000

By BRUCE NEWTON

RENAULT'S return to Australia assumes concrete proportions on December 1 when the new Nissan Australia-backed franchise takes over the distribution of parts from Volvo Australia.

Sales of new vehicles will not start until the second quarter of 2001, after a launch of the five-car range at the Melbourne International Motor Show in March.

The range will comprise the Scenic compact people-mover and its 4WD RX4 derivative, the Clio five-door hatch, Megane Cabrio and the brand new Laguna II hatchback.

They will be sold initially through 20 metropolitan dealers, 16 of whom already handle Nissan.

Nissan Australia managing director Leon Daphne described the parts distribution as a good way to crank up the Renault Australia operation.

"Volvo are very keen to get out of it and I am very keen to get into it because it gives us some operation," he said.

"We're in a bit of a difficult time right now where we are in a lot of planning and discussion.

"It's a bit frustrating - we'd love to have the vehicles and love to be selling them, it's one of these periods where you have lots to do to finish your planning, but it just gives us a chance to test our capability to do some Renault business, to service our customers and probably in a very small volume to report separately on Renault and Nissan parts accounts." While Mr Daphne would not be drawn on the detailed Renault Australia plans, other sources within the organisation confirmed ambitious long-term plans for 25,000-plus sales and a position as one of the top European marques here.

That plan takes into account the need to bring in a full range of Renault light commercial vehicles, as well as expanding the car range dramatically. For instance, expect the Laguna II wagon to be sold here, although both it and the hatch will only come in 3.0-litre V6 versions.

We should also get a full range of the small-medium Meganes once a new generation of that car is revealed in 2002. Even the extraordinary Avantime has been mentioned as a possible for Australia.

The dealer network would also expand into major provincial areas.

"We would hope to overtake Peugeot very quickly and once we get the full range launched then we would be looking to compete with VW, recognizing that VW have a very strong image," the source said.

Volkswagen Group Australia - the new factory-owned Australian distributor - has also announced strong sales growth targets out beyond 25,000 per annum.

"There's no doubt that every marque is aggressive. So something has got to give, but if Renault can keep product range appealing there's no doubt we'll take some market off some of the others," the source said.

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