News - Renault

Renault rebuilds, courts GM

Struggling Renault Australia shoots for 7000 annual sales, as its parent courts GM

Renault logo12 Jul 2006

RENAULT is cautiously aiming for a steady rise in sales in Australia over the next four or five years, with several forthcoming models encouraging the company to predict that its volume will more than double over that timeframe from last year’s unremarkable 3301-unit total.

Renault Australia’s managing director Rudi Koenig would not be drawn into divulging any firm figure, however he told GoAuto last week that "around 7000" was "very possible" within the next five years.

"I am very much against following the policies of my predecessors, where you announce grandiose plans without … seeing if you can achieve them," he said. "(But) we do expect controlled growth. This year we have attacked the last of our stock hangovers, putting our fundamentals in a very good position, so we can look straight ahead.

"But certainly there is exciting news for Renault in the future." The Megane Phase II small-car revamp released this week was just the beginning.

Early next year 1.5-litre and 1.9-litre turbo-diesel engine variants arrive for Megane, as well as the Scenic II Phase II facelift, which will include diesels and the long-wheelbase – and long-overdue – seven-seater Grand Scenic.

At about the same time, Renault is expected to reintroduce the medium-sized Laguna, in facelifted diesel hatchback guise, in very limited numbers.

"It will be a bridging to the next Laguna," said Mr Koenig. "What I’d like to do is keep the Laguna name in the marketplace.

"(All these) will grow our market penetration, since we will be offering a hot product – that being diesel." The larger and more refined Clio III will also be here in the first half of 2007, kicked off by the long-awaited RS (Sport 197) model.

"That will boost our sales figures in Australia," said Mr Koenig, although he admitted that the Clio III would only be a petrol-powered proposition for now.

He also revealed that Renault Australia is assessing the 26 new models that the company’s president and chief executive officer Carlos Ghosn said will form part of Renault’s drive to boost global sales, operating profits and products and service quality by 2009.

 center imageLeft: Renault Australia’s managing director Rudi Koenig.

"We’ve been working very actively over the last six months, since Carlos Ghosn’s announcement, to see what our share would be. These include SUVs, crossovers and prestige cars that Mr Ghosn announced. It all depends on price, spec levels, suitability to our markets and financial viability to our dealer network and to us." In the February announcement, Mr Ghosn outlined these, as well as five new luxury vehicles, would be released by 2009, along with the complete renewal of the Laguna, Megane, Twingo city car, Kangoo and Master. Underscoring the rise in volume is a doubling of dealer outlets over the next three years. Almost all of Renault’s 22 outlets nationally are also Nissan dealerships. The company hopes to increase this to around 45.

GM eyes Renault tie
A GLOBAL alliance between General Motors and Renault-Nissan, which could see the latter purchasing as much as a 20 per cent stake in the American auto giant, is being touted after the GM board last week endorsed a recommendation to engage in discussions.

With the boards of Nissan and Renault having also declared their interest in seeking talks, GM chief executive Rick Wagoner will now meet with Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn – later this week, it is understood – to discuss the proposed alliance, which is the brainchild of GM’s fourth-largest shareholder Kirk Kerkorian.

"General Motors has a lot of experience with different types of alliances, and some have provided significant benefits to GM’s competitive position and financial strength," said Mr Wagoner in a statement. "We will enter into discussions with the managements of Renault and Nissan with an open mind – eager to hear their ideas of how an alliance between our companies might work to our mutual benefit.

"Given the complexity of any potential relationship, it has to be carefully considered on its merits before coming to any conclusion.

"We are committed to an objective and thorough review of that potential." Mr Kerkorian’s Tracinda Corporation holds a 9.9 per cent share in GM and has a representative, Jerry York, on the board.

Mr Kerkorian has reportedly urged Rick Wagoner to sell a 20 per cent stake of the world’s biggest car manufacturer to the Renault-Nissan Group, which is the fourth-biggest car-maker with combined annual sales of more than six million.

Renault has a 44.4 per cent share in Nissan, while Nissan has a 15 per cent stake in Renault. The French government also has a 15 per cent stake in Renault – and is supportive of the discussions with GM.

"We periodically receive interesting proposals and we owe it to the company and its shareholders to explore how they might work, and to objectively weigh the potential benefi ts and issues that each might present," Mr Wagoner said.

"That is exactly what we recommended to the GM board in this specific case, and exactly what it has agreed we should do." GM’s share price has risen since the speculation about a potential alliance with Renault-Nissan however, the move has attracted encouragement and criticism in equal measures. Some automotive watchers consider it a manoeuvre to divert attention from GM’s severe financial problems in North America, while others see it as a plot to overthrow Mr Wagoner in favour of "Le Cost Cutter" Carlos Ghosn.

Many see it as a means for Renault and Nissan to reduce costs – and also risk – in developing new technology. But for GM, the benefits in sharing parts and designs with the French and Japanese brands are not so clear.

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