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Frankfurt show: Renault Megane RS on fast track here
New Renault Megane RS hot hatch could arrive in Australia as early as next May
14 Sep 2017
By HAITHAM RAZAGUI in FRANKFURT
AUSTRALIANS could get their hands on the much-anticipated fourth-generation Renault Megane RS as early as May next year, with both left- and right-hand drive variants now confirmed to start rolling off the production line in February.
Groupe Renault executive vice-president and chief competitive officer Thierry Bollore told GoAuto at the Frankfurt motor show this week that production of both RHD and LHD Megane RS variants would commence “at the same time, immediately”.
According to Renault UK communications director Jeremy Townsend, the first two months of production will be limited to models fitted with the new six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, with assembly of purist-pleasing manual versions starting in April.
He said that because Britain is a majority-manual market, Renault UK decided to hold back its Megane RS launch until April, when it will have access to both transmission options.
This presents an opportunity for Renault Australia to rush the dual-clutch Megane RS to this automatic-friendly market before manual production comes online, meaning we could see the hot hatch here as early as May, based on a three-month shipping time from the Spanish factory.
However, Renault Australia remains coy about local launch timing, with the only guidance being from an insider who commented that we “might be pleasantly surprised”.
As reported, former Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar revealed in July that Australian customers “will not have to wait” for the Megane RS.
Renault Sport is likely to oblige, too, considering that at times during peak sales of the third-generation Megane RS, Australia was the world’s largest export market for hot Renaults.
Speaking with Australian media following the Megane RS unveiling in Frankfurt, Renault Sport Cars engineering director Thierry Landreau described RS as “part of the foundation of the Renault brand in Australia”.
“Australia has always been in the top five countries for us in the RS range,” he said.
Renault Sport Cars managing director Patrice Ratti added that Australia was an important market, particularly for the Megane RS, meaning this country had “a big influence on our decisions”.
“For the previous Megane RS, Australia was our third-biggest seller,” he said.
“We have a lot of exchanges with a lot of countries where we sell the car, the biggest sales are France, Germany, Australia, Japan and the UK so they are the ones with which we have the most interactions.”
Mr Ratti predicted that sales in RHD markets Australia and Japan would be firmly skewed toward the dual-clutch transmission option, while Britain remained staunchly manual.
“That influenced our decision to offer both gearboxes – of course, it is more investment and more work for our engineers to develop both versions,” he said.
Mr Landreau said that sporty RS, GT and GT-Line variants accounted for between 25 and 30 per cent of Australian Renault passenger car sales.
“In Europe, we used to wait for more than 10 per cent of the total, so having three times the sales means the sportiness of the brand is important for Renault in Australia.”
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