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Mainstream Renault Meganes under cloud for Australia

Renault’s SUV play may usurp non-GT/RS Megane moving forward but base Clio is safe

17 Sep 2018

RENAULT Australia has revealed that the mainstream non-performance versions of its slow-selling Megane hatch, sedan and wagon may have to make way for its proposed Arkana crossover in 2020 if it is given the green light for right-hand-drive (RHD) production.
Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the Megane RS in Queensland last week, Renault Australia managing director Andrew Moore said that the Megane variants were safe for now, but if passenger-car sales continue to decline, the company would look to offer a broader range of SUVs, where possible.
However, he said that the sportier Megane GT and RS hot-hatch would continue as they have a strong following in Australia, while adding that a full range of the next-generation Clio light hatch would arrive from about 2020 as an affordable entry point to the Renault brand.
“The reality is that we’ve got to meet the market, and there are less and less people looking at sedans and wagons,” Mr Moore revealed. “So, at the moment, there’s still a niche for the (base Megane hatch, sedan and wagon), but we’re reviewing it all the time. 
“We haven’t made any final decisions, we’re still selling those vehicles. Will we continue to sell them in six months? Yes. Will we continue to sell them in 12 months? I haven’t got Arkana over the line yet, so, if Arkana isn’t developed in RHD, obviously I need to get some volume from other vehicles. 
“But if everything lands ­– and you don’t want to have too many vehicles in the line-up that make it difficult to manage and so forth – I would suggest that and (if) everything comes to plan, ideally Megane would be more focused around RS models, because that’s where this car has a following. Megane RS has a cult following; we sell reasonable volume of the Megane GT.”
To the end of August, Renault has only sold 732 Meganes – compared to 13,660 Volkswagen Golf sales – representing a 15 per cent slide over the same period last year. 
Sales in the small-car category are down three per cent year to date, but the corresponding small-SUV segment has soared by over 24.7 per cent.
“Where we struggle with Megane is at the entry point, where we have a higher level of interior, a turbo engine, it’s European sourced – it’s not going to compete price-wise with low-end Korean product,” Mr Moore added. 
“That’s where we are not getting the numbers for (Megane).”
However, Mr Moore said he was adamant that Renault would not follow Ford, Hyundai, Nissan and others by not offering its European-sourced light-car once the next-generation Clio arrives in 2020.
“Clio is here to stay,” he promised. “I categorically state that. If I look at some of the competitors that have gone totally down the SUV path, they’re missing a portion of the market that wants a smaller and easier city car. To me Clio is the perfect vehicle to provide that. It’s a good value vehicle.”
Mr Moore wants to keep the pressure on the more premium positioned Volkswagen Polo and Skoda Fabia as well as the mid-range Suzuki Swift and Mazda2 by maintaining an affordable yet highly-specified offering.
In contrast, Ford’s new Fiesta (barring the ST), Hyundai’s i20 and Nissan’s new-gen Micra (based on the existing Clio) are unavailable in Australia because they’re deemed as too expensive to import from Europe. 
“I want to keep Clio as a better-specced light-segment car,” he said. “The Suzukis and Mazda2s are naturally aspirated, but the Clio will always have the turbo engine which is a lot more fun and the interior is a step up etcetera. 
“I don’t want to play in the cheap-cheap space, but provide a really good value motor car for people coming into the market. And that will then lead them into the SUV path or brand-halo models like the Megane GT/RS. So, Clio is here to stay.”
Renault Australia released the current (fourth-generation) Megane hatch in October 2016, while the sedan and wagon followed a year later. The Kadjar compact SUV was last week confirmed to arrive by mid-2019, while the Arkana is pencilled in for a late-2020 or early-2021 launch should it be built for right-hand-drive markets.

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