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Renault Sport set to expand portfolio

Brutal ute: A hotted-up Renault Sport version of the forthcoming Alaskan pick-up could be on the cards.

Hotted-up versions of Renault’s SUV fleet currently on the radar, says management

Renault logo18 Dec 2015

RENAULT is set to expand the horizons of its exclusive RS range to include other vehicles in its catalogue, including its range of SUVs.

Speaking with Australian journalists, Renault Sport vice president in charge of sales, marketing and communications Regis Fricotte said that while progress would be steady, the performance sub-brand needs to expand going forward.

“We want to develop Renault Sport, and it has been confirmed by Mr Ghosn that Renault wants to develop motorsport activities globally, so we will be looking at other potential opportunities to develop the Renault Sport brand,” he said.

“It is not only limited to Clio and Megane. To tell you which project is being looked at, that is internal and I cannot tell you about anything more.”

Mr Fricotte admitted that it makes sense for the company to look at performance SUVs.

“We don’t ignore it,” he said. “Ignoring means we’re not looking at it. In June this year we launched the (Renault-branded) Sandero RS (in Brazil) and it’s doing very well. The car is performing at the same sales ratio as the first Clio RS did. It’s a simple car, but with great performance, even on a circuit.”

Mr Fricotte explained that any potential addition to the RS ranks would be required to meet three basic premises.

“The selection is (based on) market demand, technical feasibility and economic viability,” he said. “So if you have those three conditions, and the (RS) guys feel we can do something, we’ll do it, but it’s got to have the three in other words we’re not going to go and do a crazy car that’s not for sale.

“We are a subsidiary that's here to develop the business on these three elements. We look at almost everything.”

Mr Fricotte said that the same answer applied to the questions about a modified version of the forthcoming Alaskan ute, which will be based on Nissan’s Navara and sold in Australia.

He pointed out that the French brand could not be compared to a company such as Ford, which currently offers sporty pick-up products in Australia and the United States.

“Renault’s image and position is not quite where rivals like Ford’s is in the US and Australia and the like,” he said. “Today, RS looks more at performance sportiness, not lifestyle sportiness like the big utes.”

The fourth-generation of Renault’s small Megane hatchback included the release of a GT variant, which Mr Fricotte said could also be rolled out to other cars.

Previously, a GT-Line version of the Megane offered only cosmetic upgrades, where the GT features a more powerful engine, all-wheel steering and larger brakes. In Australia Renault offered the warmed-over GT220 in hatch and sedan guise as well.

“GT or RS, it’s a question of positioning in the market and which customers we are aiming at,” he said.

“If you take the Talisman (sedan) or Espace (people-mover), you could imagine a Talisman GT, but it’s difficult to imagine an RS. Same for Espace,” he said.

“The type of car we develop today, we measure sportiness acceleration and with chassis (development) In other segments, it doesn’t make sense.

“On an SUV you would need other things besides acceleration and chassis. You’re not going to lower an SUV it’s the opposite of what it is created for.”

He noted that European rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz offered high-powered sporty versions of their SUVs, but Renault was in a vastly different position.

“When the big companies look on the shelf, they are not shy to pick up any engine they have,” he said. “They have a diversity of engine that we don’t have. From 100 to 600 horsepower, they can pick and choose. We’re not a premium manufacturer, we don’t have that luxury. We can’t do everything.”

Mr Fricotte agreed that Renault Sport has permission to expand, but pointed out it needed to protect what it had already built up over the past 15 years.

“We will call something an RS if we really believe it’s worth calling it RS,” he said. “We could have taken that (Megane GT) with 205 horsepower and called it a new RS, and the next RS comes, we will have two RSs. You guys would be up on the table, saying what the crap is that, it’s not an RS. We’ve got a very clear view of what is an RS and what is not an RS.”

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