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Renault Australia ute plan still intact

No go: Renault will not bring the current-generation Alaskan pick-up to Australia, but has set its sights on the next-generation alliance pick-up platform.

Case for current Alaskan goes cold, forcing Renault Oz to look to next alliance ute

18 Nov 2019

AFTER years of negotiations with the factory, Renault Australia has shelved plans to bring the current-generation Alaskan ute to local shores and is now working on a fresh case to secure a new-generation model based on the forthcoming Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance pick-up platform.


The Australian subsidiary of the French manufacturer has spent the past few years anticipating the arrival of the Nissan Navara-based Alaskan, however after a number of delays and setbacks, the company now has its sights set on the new-generation alliance pick-up, which is expected to arrive in Mitsubishi Triton form around 2021.


Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the all-new Kadjar SUV last week, Renault Australia senior product manager Charly Clercin said the current Alaskan was not a suitable fit for the local market.


“We’ve decided not to go ahead with the current generation of Alaskan, we feel the product wasn’t necessarily right and suited properly for our expectations and what we want a pick-up to deliver for the Australian market,” he said.


Asked to specify what made the Alaskan unsuitable for Australia, Mr Clercin said: “It was in terms of engine specific tuning, it was very much tuned for Europe.


“In terms of suspension tuning, it was tuned for Europe as well, and we felt there’s a difference between what the European customer is expecting from a pick-up and what and Australian customer is expecting from a pick-up, so it’s just a matter of tuning this differently.


“Obviously we’re very much keen to get a pick-up into the Australia market, we know how important that segment is, we also know how competitive it is, that’s why we want to make sure that if we go ahead and offer a vehicle, we want to make sure the vehicle has every chance to succeed because it’s a huge market but also extremely competitive, and if you go with a product that you’re not 100 per cent confident can perform, it’s high risk.”


Mr Clercin added that Renault will draw on the expertise of its alliance partners when developing a new Alaskan, and will leverage that expertise to craft a pick-up specially tailored for Australian customers’ needs.


Under previous managing director Andrew Moore, Renault Australia was planning to only launch with a highly specified dual-cab pick-up, however Mr Clercin said the company – which has been overseen by Anouk Poelmann since May – would be open to bringing a broad range of variants in new-generation form to offer a comprehensive range of light-commercial vehicles Down Under.


“We know the market and the pick-up is extremely wide, you go from a very basic, simple single-cab that you can get from under $20,000 all the way to the super-luxurious, sporty pick-up that you get for four-to-five times the price, so there is a very wide range, and we’ll be looking at: one, where the Renault brand fits within the range – we know we have some strengths within the commercial brand with our vans, so we can also hop into this and offer a proper work vehicle to our fleet customers, to our commercial customers,” he said.


“But we will also be looking at now that we have a proper SUV range, expanding that SUV range with a highly specified dual-cab ute.


“So we will be open to looking at the whole spectrum of the market, and see where the brand can fit.”


For powertrains, Mr Clercin said that Renault would be open to using any alliance engines available on the new-generation pick-up, and would select the powertrain most suitable for the vehicle instead of insisting on a Renault-derived mill.


However he did say that whichever engine was used would have to feature Renault-specific tuning qualities, to give it a different driving feel over other offerings.


Mitsubishi has floated the idea of bringing plug-in hybrid (PHEV) powertrains to its new-generation Triton, with Mr Clercin saying he would be open to the idea of a PHEV Alaskan if the market demand was there and the powertrain could still fulfil the requirements of a pick-up, namely regarding towing and payload.


Adding a pick-up to its range would complete the light-commercial vehicle range for Renault in Australia, which already consists of the Kangoo, Trafic and Master van range.


Mr Clercin said that introducing the Alaskan, particularly a full range consisting of different body styles and drivelines, could help turn Renault into an LCV powerhouse Down Under.


“It could, yeah,” he said. “If we bring the right product with the right specification at the right price, there’s no reason why we couldn’t continue that successful story we have had with our vans.”

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