ONE TO WATCH: Temperamental but finally listening in class. Has taken a while but Renault finally seems to be getting hold on Australian market. But brand is at critical juncture where it needs to step up and start conquesting more sales, which could be more difficult than getting to point it is now.
Sales*: 7981 (+48.6%)
2014 sales forecast: 9500
Wheels prediction for 2015: 18th
*To end October 2014
IT’S been an on-again, off-again relationship with Australians and French brand Renault.
With plenty of loveable cars in its past – the Renault 5 and 19 spring to mind, and even the sleek Fuego was something refreshingly different in the boxy 1980s – Renault had a loyal but small customer base.
That was diluted throughout the 1990s with mediocre products, prompting the brand to eventually pull the pin locally in 1996 and leaving many customers with a sour taste thanks to poor after-sales experiences and even worse resale values.
Come 2001 and it was back on deck following the ground-breaking Renault-Nissan alliance that even today is held up as a model of cross-company and multicultural cooperation.
But customers – many who bore scars on their bank accounts – weren’t as forthcoming and the dreamed-of 25,000 sales never eventuated, with the brand failing to sell one-fifth of that.
But another relaunch in 2010 brought with it a grounded approach to growing the brand, and it’s one that is hitting targets. In 2014, sales are up almost 50 percent, with the company on track for record Australian sales, north of 9000 units.
Key to the success is the Clio light car and Megane small car, while the Trafic commercial vehicle is the brand’s second-best seller.
The Koleos SUV delivers meaningful numbers, although it’s a bit player in the SUV segment in competes in, with age doing it no favours.
ANYTHING big for Renault in Australia is generally fairly small when you consider its miniscule 0.9 percent sliver of the market. But two important models due in 2015 should continue the healthy sales growth.
The Clio-based Captur compact SUV is one that could add 10-15 percent to the sales tally and give Renault an entrant in one of the fastest-growing segments.
Then there’s the new version of the Trafic van, a vehicle that is Renault’s second-best seller.
There will also be minor tweaks to other models, including the brand’s number one car, the Clio, and the Megane that still struggles to find clean air in the hotly contested small-car market.
RENAULT’S biggest issue is consistency; something only time will solve. Since disappearing then reappearing with little sales fanfare there has been constant speculation about the brand’s future here. With such dominant share in their home market, French brands have often shown little interest in exports – and Australian customers have returned the favour.
Now that the brand is growing it needs to reinvest to build customer assurance. Already Renault is growing its footprint. In 2011 it had just 21 dealers, while by the end of 2014 there will be 43. The brand has focused on ensuring it has adequate coverage in CBDs and is now targeting major metropolitan centres that could yield incremental growth.
Volkswagen is still the brand’s biggest adversary, with a strong foothold in the affordable European market that Renault wants to encroach upon.
While it’s hard to see Renault taking vast chunks out of its German rival’s sales, there will be opportunities on which to capitalise. It requires good – and attractive – vehicles, something that seems to be happening at Renault.
Then there’s French arch rivals Peugeot and Citroen, which have flailed around in Australia for years with minimal success. Each has some exciting new models that could naturally tempt people away from a Renault showroom.
Sign up here to receive the latest round-up of Wheels news, reviews and video highlights straight to your inbox each week.
Want free access to 5 years of Wheels archive content? Sign up now!