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Renault edges towards the Australian mainstream

New recruit: The new Renault Captur, due here in October, will give the company incremental volume.

Global aspirations put onus on Renault Australia to keep sales growth bubbling along

30 Apr 2014

RENAULT Australia has moved beyond niche status and is laying the foundations for a slow and steady push towards the market mainstream with a raft of exciting new core models on the way, according to managing director Justin Hocevar.

Long a mainstream brand in Europe, Renault’s future models will be designed with the entire world in mind like they haven’t been in decades, with the same radical designs as the new Clio and its Captur crossover derivative, now due in Australia around October.

But in return, says Mr Hocevar, the expectation for burgeoning subsidiaries such as Australia from head office in France will be to post sales figures that match the products, heralding the arrival of a whole new set of challenges for the company here as big-volume players sit up and take notice.

Interestingly, Renault’s Australian arm cites fellow European brand Volkswagen as an ideal model of how to undergo rapid volume growth here, with Mr Hocevar calling VW’s move into serious volume levels in recent times a “10-year overnight success”.

This is not to say Renault aims to take its projected 9000 sales in 2014 up to Volkswagen’s figure of more than 50,000 sales. But a slow-and-steady approach is expected to see the company more than double its current market share of 0.7 per cent down the track.

Speaking on Renault Australia’s mid-term plans, Mr Hocevar said the company’s next-generation models would assist its search for continued volume growth.

“Having a look at the other Van den Acker (Renault design chief Laurens) product that is coming, and his influence over the success of Clio and Captur, is incredibly exciting,” he said.

“I was stunned and amazed to see how adventurous they are and to see how international the focus is now relative to the quite European-centric focus of the brand in the past, and I think what we’ll see in the future are cars as strong as Clio is its segment in terms of design, packing and engine, we’ll see that replicated in other segments.

 center imageLeft: Justin Hocevar.

“And where we’ve got some product that doesn’t stand out from a design point-of-view in their class, that’s going to change. And when we reach that point, I think the Australian public will take a very different view of what Renault is.” Since 2010, when the company managed to sell a meagre 1907 vehicles, Renault Australia has seen three consecutive years of double-digit growth on the back of sharper pricing, improved aftersales programs and a big push into the commercial vehicle market.

Sales are up a further 40.5 per cent in the first three months of 2014, leading the company to update its annual projection to 9000 units for this calendar year — a record-breaking figure delivered on the back of the popular new Clio, continued LCV growth and a few months of sales of the new Captur crossover, the launch of which has been delayed until about October.

While this still represents less than 1.0 per cent per cent share of the total new vehicle market, a figure of 9000 sales would see Renault move beyond ‘niche’ status and creep towards the mainstream, which is precisely where its volume-oriented French parent company wants it to be.

“Let’s face it, Renault is a mainstream generalist brand, always has been,” Mr Hocevar said. “Volume talks within Renault, and therefore the demands upon us to get that volume in Australia are very high.

“I think we’re in a very fortunate position that the company has bitten the bullet, made a commitment to the market and has given us the commercial means and investment in this market to build our sales and network, all those things.

“That is going to get us through to the next product offensive.” Renault Australia now has 37 dealers — all multi-franchise — with four new on the way. This compares to 19 at the start of 2012. As it grows, Renault will have more opportunities to boost its ‘mind-share’ of its multi-franchise clients within the network.

The opportunities for growth will no doubt slow in time, said Mr Hocevar, with Renault’s ‘car-park’ getting to a size where doubling the volume becomes untenable. But in time, the company is confident of creeping towards 1.5 or even 2.0 per cent share, largely on the back of new models.

“I think its gonna take time, Volkswagen was a 10-year overnight success, I think we’ve had good growth, but in the scheme its modest and off a low base.

“We have to keep pushing, year in, year out, to get above the 1.0 per cent, then to 1.5 per cent, and can we push to 2.0 per cent? Over time, I sure we can.”

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