1 May 1995
Several importers have represented Renault locally since the French marque arrived here with the Juvaquatre in 1946.
In its various guises, Renault Australia has assembled a diverse range of cars in Melbourne, such as the 10, 12, 16, 18, 20, Peugeot 404, 505 and even the Ford TE/TF Cortina wagon.
Before its 2001 resurrection by Nissan Australia, a pre-Ford Volvo Car Australia (VCA) had control.
The stylish and appealing front-wheel drive Laguna five-door hatchback was to be its almost sure-fire assault on the local prestige market above the bland, Corolla-sized 19.
Two engines were offered in the Laguna – the 83kW/168Nm F3R 2.0-litre four-cylinder and the 123kW/235Nm Z7X 3.0-litre V6, the former powering the RXE in either five-speed manual or four-speed automatic guises, and the latter as the auto-only ‘V6’ model.
Equipment levels were high – all featured a driver’s airbag, anti-lock brakes, power steering, climate control air-conditioning, central locking, fog lights and a trip computer, while the V6 added cruise control, alloy wheels, power front seats and a rear spoiler.
Despite favourable reviews and keen pricing, VCA’s plans went up in a bang along with the French Government’s extremely unpopular decision to test nuclear bombs in the Pacific.
The subsequent anti-French fallout hamstrung Laguna sales locally (a Renault 12 was even publicly set alight in protest), forcing VCA – whose international relationship with Renault soured soon after an aborted merger agreement – to drop the franchise in 1996.
It was only Renault’s 1999 rescue and control of the near-bankrupt Nissan Motor Corporation that cleared the way for its return to Australia two years later.
The second generation Laguna followed from March ’02.