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Renault on the SUV offensive in 2021

Clio, Zoe axed, Kadjar going too, as Renault looks to new Arkana, Captur for growth

28 Jul 2020

RENAULT has announced wide-ranging changes to its Australian product portfolio, axing all passenger cars bar its image-leading Renault Sport Megane performance model and instead following market trends to prioritise its SUV and light-commercial vehicle range.


At a media briefing this week, the local arm of the French auto giant revealed that it had assessed its long-term viability in Australia during what managing director Anouk Poelmann described as “one of the most challenging periods in our history”.


The result was a decision to remain operating in Australia for the foreseeable future, albeit with a major restructure of its model range and priorities that sees the longstanding Clio light hatch and the niche Zoe electric car deleted from the line-up.


What’s more, the recently introduced Kadjar small SUV will be another casualty of the cutbacks, with Renault Australia instead developing a successful business case for the all-new Arkana coupe-style crossover that occupies the same segment and will be launched here in the second half of 2021.


Arkana will bolster Renault’s SUV range that in the first quarter of next year will welcome the second-generation Captur light crossover.


An updated version of the Koleos mid-size SUV will check in next year, too, while Renault Australia has also signalled its desire to add at least one large SUV to its line-up by leveraging its alliance with Nissan and Mitsubishi.


Watch out for RS versions of its SUVs, while further afield the company remains hopeful the second-generation Alaskan ute will enable a long-anticipated entrance into the popular pick-up segment and strengthen its LCV stable that spans the Kangoo, Trafic and Master vans.


Furthermore, the Megane RS comes in for an overhaul next year, and the A110S sportscar from Renault’s Alpine sub-brand is also firming for launch in 2021, joining the current A110.


Ms Poelmann said the product rollout would play a vital role in helping Renault achieve its goal of retaining and strengthening its market share through the worst of the COVID-19 economic impacts and beyond.


Through the first half of this year, Renault sales have slipped 33.4 per cent to 2621 units, while its market share has slipped from 0.7 to 0.6 per cent. Last year, the brand managed 8634 sales, down almost 14 per cent on the 10,000 units it recorded in 2018.


“In the very volatile market, very unpredictable at the moment, it’s honestly difficult to forecast our volume for the year,” Ms Poelmann said.


“All I can say is that we are probably more focused on maintaining our share of the market. So far we have been tracking well, we are tracking in the right direction when it comes to our share, and our ambition is to always show year-on-year growth in market share.”


Arkana’s confirmation now places Renault as the frontrunner to be the first mainstream brand to offer a coupe-style small SUV in Australia, joining premium entrants such as the BMW X2 and Audi Q2.


Visually, the Arkana bears a strong resemblance to the Megane hatch, with a nearly identical headlight cluster and front grille, while the wide-set tail-light motif is also strikingly similar.


At the Arkana’s global debut at the 2018 Moscow motor show, Renault Australia said it was keen to secure the model but that right-hand-drive production remained a question mark.


While the Russian version is built on Renault’s B0+ platform, Australian examples will be built in Busan, South Korea, based on the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s more modern CMF-B platform.


Powertrain options are yet to be confirmed, however the most suitable engine choice is likely the 1.3-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder found on the Captur and Kadjar. In the latter it produces 117kW/260Nm.


Renault Australia senior product manager Charly Clercin said the decision to replace the newly introduced Kadjar with Arkana was due to the fact that the Spanish-built Kadjar was already an ageing model when it launched here late last year, whereas the Arkana is brand-new.


As is the case with Koleos, other advantages with Korean sourcing include shorter lead times and a better pricing position due to reduced shipping costs and the free-trade agreement in place between South Korea and Australia.


The all-new Spanish-built Captur is also underpinned by the CMF-B platform and is set to arrive here next year with a three-variant line-up consisting of the familiar Life, Zen and Intens variants.


Pricing and specification are yet to be detailed, however Renault is targeting a sub-$30,000 driveaway price for the entry-level Life at launch.


In overseas markets the Captur has a plug-in hybrid powertrain option, and Mr Clercin said Australia was “definitely interested in” the PHEV, but would work with its headquarters in France to determine the optimal time to bring it to market.


The Captur is a critical model given it not only competes in a fast-growing segment but now carries the weight of expectation to take up the slack left by Clio’s departure. Prospective Megane and Kadjar buyers might also find the Arkana too outlandish.


The Megane line-up will no longer include the GT-Line and warmed-over GT, leaving only the full-fat RS grades.


The new-generation Alaskan is likely to be a prospect for launch in 2022, following new-generation utes from alliance partners Mitsubishi (with Triton) and Nissan (with Navara) which are well in development and will share bodies as well as basic architecture.


A large SUV based on the same ladder-frame chassis could become available for Renault – as seen with the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and (overseas) Nissan Terra – while a more road-going monocoque-chassis seven-seat SUV in the same vein as the Nissan Pathfinder is also in the mix.


“(SUV is) where we’re focusing, so any product that is made available by Renault globally we will have a look at it,” Mr Clercin said.


“And if there is a positive case, for sure we’d be interested in extending our portfolio.”


Mr Clercin also reaffirmed the company’s desire for RS-fettled versions of its SUV line-up, which could add an extra layer of appeal – particularly to Captur and Arkana.


He said Renault Australia would be “very interested” in such products should they become available.


More details on the Alpine A110S for Australia will be released later this year. The model has a number of carbon-fibre elements compared to the A110 and raises performance from the mid-mounted 1.8-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder by 30kW to 215kW/320Nm.


Renault has advised that there are no plans at this stage for a next-generation RS version of the Clio, but it would be considered for Australia if developed.


The Clio has been a consistent member of Renault’s line-up since the brand returned to this market in 2001, but its annual sales only reached as high as 2767 units in 2015 and have steadily tapered off since then, to 814 units last year.


Since its launch towards the end of 2017, the Zoe also struggled to make an impact in a country that is yet to fully embrace EVs.


Renault Australia corporate and product communications manager Andrew Ellis said the brand’s streamlined offering and incoming new product will help lift sales, which are currently facing a fifth consecutive year of declining overall volume.


“Clearly we want to arrest that decline, I think what you’ve seen today are the first steps towards that,” he said.


“Obviously this year has been difficult to say the least … but we’ve started to arrest that decline, we saw a really good result in June, our website traffic is back to pre-2019 levels, we have an enthusiastic dealer body.


“We’re excited about where we’re going now and particularly in 2021.”

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