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Koleos kaput

Futuristic: The Koleos concept features radical styling and a hybrid petrol-electric engine.

Renault's off-beat Koleos is not destined for production, according to the French car-maker

Renault logo16 Apr 2001

THERE will be no production version of the exciting Renault Koleos concept soft-roader.

That's the official world from company chairman and chief executive officer Louis Schweitzer.

The decision is a victory for Renault's global alliance partner Nissan, which relies in many markets on its reputation as a four-wheel drive expert to garner sales.

But it is a blow for Renault's design team which wants to build the Koleos and for the fledgling Renault Australia operation, which saw the striking five-door as an opportunity for substantial growth in a market where four-wheel drive sales are booming.

That Renault, which prides itself on its ability to create and exploit new market niches, would choose not to build the Koleos is testament to how much value it places on its relationship with Nissan, in which it bought a controlling share in 1999.

It also reflects the fact that Renault is not interested in returning to the US market - where sport utility vehicles are a huge hit - before 2010.

The decision leaves Renault with just the Scenic RX4 as an SUV competitor, although Mr Schweitzer said a future 4WD product was possible - with the co-operation of Nissan.

The future of the RX4 is also guaranteed into a second generation due in 2003, with its Steyr-Puch viscous-coupled 4WD system tipped to be replaced by a Nissan system.

The Koleos was unveiled at Renault's massive Technocentre outside Paris in February, 2000. At the time it was tipped to be in production by the end of 2001.

About the same size as a Subaru Forester, its bulk was magnified by the use of massive 21-inch wheels.

Power came from a hybrid petrol-electric engine, although the production version was expected to use a conventional petrol engine.

"At this stage we have no plans for production of the Koleos," Mr Schweitzer said.

"If we look at the cost of investment and development, one feels it would not be profitable.

"It is not a position of principle, so it might change.

"It might appear at one point of time that using a platform jointly developed with Nissan, it might make sense making a vehicle of a larger size than the Scenic RX4 that is typically Renault." While Koleos is dead, some of its styling features such as the aggressive front-end are seeing production already in the likes of the Vel Satis luxury hatchback, and its triangular C-pillar also seems sure to be used.

Nevertheless, the "non" to Koleos will not be received politely at the Technocentre.

"I personally want to build it," said one senior designer.

"It's our logical next step." And a Renault Australia insider was equally enthusiastic - albeit for far more immediate and commercial reasons: "If they came to Australia and said 'do you want it?' - it would take 0.1 of a nano-second to say yes." Meanwhile, Mr Schweitzer was careful not to rule out plans for a rear-wheel drive luxury sedan to take on the Mercedes-Benz S-class as reported by Automotive NetWorks last week on the Yellow Pages automotive website.

But he dismissed speculation of a Lexus-like luxury nameplate to market it: "We have no such plan to create a luxury brand," he said.

Schweitzer visit: Renault boss Louis Schweitzer will make his first visit to Australia within three months of the manufacturer making its 10,000th sale following its relaunch in May.

Mr Schweitzer made the commitment to a group of Australian motoring journalists during an interview at the company's world headquarters in Paris last week.

That means he will be on our shores early in 2003. Renault Australia aims to sell 3500 cars this year and 5000 in 2002.

But Mr Schweitzer may become a regular visitor to local shores if 10,000 sales is a benchmark figure for him. Renault has set 40,000 sales per annum by 2010 as the target for its Australian subsidiary.

Renault forecasts 80,000 combined sales for Nissan and Renault in Oceania by 2010 - a conservative figure considering Nissan sold 45,000 cars here in 2000 - and over eight million for the alliance worldwide.

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