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Renault digests impact of global strategy

Back in action: Renault will launch a diesel-only facelifted Laguna II.

Laguna set to return as Renault Oz considers implications of Ghosn’s plan

1 Mar 2006

IT WILL be six months before Renault Australia can gauge the local impact of the new Renault Commitment 2009 global strategy outlined by Renault chief executive Carlos Ghosn last week.

Under the "RC 2009" plan, the French company intends to lift global sales by a third – from 2.5 million to 3.3 million by 2009 – with a product onslaught of 26 vehicles, 13 of which will be all-new luxury passenger cars, crossovers, 4WD wagons and 4x4 light commercial vehicles.

Renault Australia managing director Rudi Koenig told GoAuto last week that many of these vehicles would be important models for Australia.

He anticipated a significant lift in sales volumes – which since the brand returned to Australia in 2001 have been well below expectations and now hover around the 3300-unit mark – as the company moves from its core business of small and medium four-cylinder cars.

"Obviously we’ll have a share of that 800,000-plus growth and we’ll certainly be having a share of those 26 new models... things like SUVs, 4x4 and crossovers – that’s bread and butter for our market," he said.

"One of the problems for us is that small and fuel-efficient cars, until recently, haven’t been the predominant market force in Australia.

"Diesel’s changing that and obviously rising fuel prices, too. More people are looking to Europeans because they are good value."Renault’s alliance with Nissan, in which it owns 44 per cent, means some of the 4WDs and crossovers could share the same platforms.

The company also has ties with Volvo, Renault Samsung in China and the low-cost Dacia brand.

Among other plans Renault Australia has in store is the re-introduction of the Laguna hatch at the end of the year as a turbo-diesel offering only, as well as the possible arrival of a turbo-diesel Megane, which may join the face-lifted model when it arrives later this year.

The Grand Scenic people-mover is also due before Christmas, after a year-long delay, while the next-generation Clio is due early next year.

Renault has discontinued the 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine Laguna locally and has just launched a new 2.0-litre dCi engine with a facelifted Laguna in Europe.

The Euro4-compliant diesel offers two states of tune – 112kW/310Nm and a class-leading 130kW/360Nm – both with sub-6.0L/100km fuel economy when mated to six-speed gearboxes.

Mr Koenig said the Laguna diesel would be a "limited edition" car that would test the waters ahead of the next-generation Laguna, which arrives in Europe next year. It was initially not going to be sold here because the all-new car is due in 2007.

Mr Koenig had previously said the 2.0-litre and V6 Laguna, priced from $39,990 to $48,990 respectively, had suffered at the hands of more successful mid-sized rivals.

Renault Australia is also continuing to battle with head office over supply timetables, with vehicles arriving here around 12 months after their European launch.

"One thing we’re looking at with this improved globalisation is trying to bring that lag from country-of-origin to launch here closer to six months rather than12 months," Mr Koenig said.

A lesser-known, but still important part of RC 2009 is the addition of 3000 engineering jobs, which according to Mr Koenig would all be outside France.

"The key focus is that the global market is growing outside of traditional Western Europe," he said.

"This plan is to make Renault a truly global company and give it the opportunities to grow in the areas where the market is growing." Given these demands, Mr Koenig is aware that there could be some pressure on Australia to perform and lift its sales forecasts.

35 center imageLEFT: Altica concept and Egeus concept (below).

"There are two ways of increasing share, one through product and the other through very big investment through your marketing activity," he said. "Our process and policy at the moment is to set a firm foundation so that when the range of products come, that will give us real growth opportunity, we’re prepared to do that." Mr Koenig conceded that Renault’s sales volume in Australia had been stagnant.

"We did just under 3500 cars last year which was one per cent lower than the year before but we’ve changed the mix of those vehicles," he said. "We’ve got much more high sales of our van range and Megane and RenaultSport range.

"We haven’t pushed hard on some of our products like Clio, because basically it’s a tough end of the market and with our product offering we’d need to wait for the next generation to be really competitive."Under RC 2009 the company has been restructured into five regional managementcommittees – the Americas, Europe, emerging European markets, Asia and Africa.

"I think the issue with that is there is going to be much more focus internally on different markets, different production bases, models designed specifically for non-European markets and built in non-European factories," Mr Koenig said.

He was also wary of the negative fall-out from Renault Australia’s previous optimistic sales forecasts – which included selling 25,000 cars a year by 2007.

"Some of the issues with that, to be fair to the previous management, was that the Euro exchange rate appreciation was dramatic and that meant they had to put prices up and cut marketing support... and obviously by putting prices up and cutting marketing, volume goes down," he said.

"It’s not rocket science. I think the circumstances have changed and it’s taken a while for us to recover that ground as far as credibility goes with the journalists and with the public." WHAT’S COMING:
Megane facelift July
Laguna dCi Dec
Grand Scenic Dec

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