French Automaker Renault’s Global Automotive Influence
Now in business for over a hundred years, Renault S.A. is France’s #2 automobile manufacturer (behind Peugeot Citron). According to their website, Renault markets itself as a ‘global player in the automotive industry’ that is dedicated to designing and manufacturing ‘safe and appealing vehicles.’ Its 44% stake in Nissan, Japan’s #3 automaker, reflects its heavy investment in Asia and the profitability strategy of producing practical, reliable cars that combine economy with safety. However, keep in mind that Renaults are not currently available in the United States. Renault manufactures a variety of fuel-efficient small to mid-size cars (such as Clio, Espace, Laguna, Logan, Megane, Modue, Scenic, and Twingo), as well as commercial vehicles (including Kangoo Express, Master, and Traffic). The compact design of Renault’s line of cars and vehicles is well-suited to narrow European streets and tight parking spaces. With Renault’s focus on safety, eight of the company’s vehicles achieved a 5-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests. Particularly impressive were the five stars awarded to both the Clio III and Modus in 2004 because the cars are so small. The Clio Renault Sport is an inexpensive, compelling alternative and global competitor for the Honda Civic Si and the VW Golf GTI – it is a sporty, compact vehicle powered by an engine that is among the best in its class. In fact, Renault won the F1 world championship, so engine technology is definitely one the company’s differentiators. Like other Renault auto models, the Clio scores high marks for the amount of standard equipment, including power steering, remote central locking, power front window, anti-lock brakes, and both driver and passenger airbags. Although Renault has improved the handling, drivers continue to report body roll and poor driver feedback. Still, the 2007 Clio Renault Sport is emblematic of the manufacturer’s emphasis on modern styling. If you’re concerned about the environment, Renault is committed to eco-design in order to reduce pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions and to build cars that are up to 95% recyclable by mass. At the 2006 Paris auto show, Renault unveiled the Nepta, a four-seat convertible concept, to a rave review from Car and Driver for styling and flair. While Renault offers a line of economical cars and vehicles that are relatively inexpensive to insure and offer excellent fuel consumption figures, most drivers report that conscientious service and maintenance are crucial to continued performance and, unfortunately, the three-year depreciation of many models is quite high. Drivers consistently praise leg room and trunk space, but many report poor cabin quality and driver position. If you’re looking for styling, economy, and a nice ride, Renault may be a good choice, but consumers have reported poor reliability and inconsistent build quality, as well as unsatisfactory dealer and manufacturer customer service. As of now, Renault has no plans to expand into the North American market until 2009, and talks with GM about a possible globe-spanning auto alliance were terminated in the beginning of October. However, Renault has reported a plan to push into the luxury sedan and sport-utility/four-wheel drive vehicle market in 2007.