STEVE COLQUHOUN June 20, 2012
The new Renault Alpine A110-50 Concept.
French carmaker hatches plan to take on Volkswagen Group at its own game.
Renault could launch sports car and luxury sub-brands under a radical plan by the French carmaker to halt a global slide in sales.
Bloomberg reports that Renault is targeting the multi-brand structure of the Volkswagen Group, which includes luxury marque Audi and the sportier Lamborghini and Bugatti brands, as inspiration for its plan.
“The ambition we have in Europe is to make sure that you, as a consumer, will hesitate between a Volkswagen and a Renault,” Renault CEO Carlos Tavares told Bloomberg.
He also named Infiniti, the luxury sub-brand of its alliance partner Nissan, as another example of a successful split in priorities.
Renault appears keen to revive the Alpine brand, showing off an Alpine-branded concept car last month to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the renowned Alpine A110 Berlinette model.
The Alpine and Renault brands have been joined at the hip since the pair signed a partnership in the mid-1960s for Alpines to be sold from Renault dealerships, and Renault purchased the majority of Alpine in the early 1970s. The Alpine brand has been dormant since the mid-1990s.
Renault is reportedly talking to potential partners to help defray the cost of reviving Alpine, including Nissan and the Daimler group, which owns Mercedes-Benz.
The addition of a prestige brand, meanwhile, would help Renault “from a profitability standpoint”, Tavares told Bloomberg.
“Everybody’s always looking at VW and what Audi represents for the VW group,” he says.
Renault already has a cut-price brand in its portfolio - the Romanian-based Dacia - and could launch a luxury brand under the Initiale Paris label it currently uses for some Renault special editions.
The changes could come quickly as Renault faces falling sales in western Europe where uncertainty surrounding the European debt crisis continues to bite hard. Car deliveries in the region are forecast to drop by 7 per cent this year.
Renault’s sales have fallen by 5.7 per cent over the past five months while its European market share also dropped.
By contrast, Volkswagen Group dropped just 1.9 per cent overall in May, buoyed by a 4.2 per cent increase in Audi sales, and increased its market share overall in Europe.
Renault is also targeting emerging markets such as Russia, where the Nissan-Renault alliance is looking to increase its market share from 33 to 40 per cent by 2015. It has signed an agreement with Dongfeng to begin to build cars in China.
“You need to be competitive across the world,” Tavares says. “That’s why we have been managing the change from a European-focused company toward a global carmaker.”