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by Tim Beissmann

Renault Australia is on track to reach its largest yearly sales result since 2002 – which was the French brand’s first full year after relaunching Down Under.

With 2823 sales in the first 10 months of 2011, Renault is on target to reach 3400 units, representing 1500 more than it achieved in 2010 and year-on-year growth of around 80 per cent.

Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar, who took over the lead role in September 2010, says there are a number of factors that have contributed to the brand’s success in 2011. He highlighted the new product portfolio and the shift to “deposition” a number of models in the range (decreasing prices while increasing specification). Hocevar also said transparency of servicing costs, the addition of a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty for passenger vehicles and the launch of Renault Financial Services have helped create more peace of mind around the brand and increase the attainability of Renault vehicles.

Increasing brand awareness remains the key for Renault, and will be a focus of 2012. Hocevar said the low visibility of Renault in Australia was still a problem and not one that could be changed overnight. “At the moment there’s not enough vehicles on the road for [the public] to actually get that sense of trust in the brand.”

Hocevar believes one of the best ways to increase brand awareness is through advertising. This year, Renault Australia has been one of the highest spending brands per vehicle sold, and Hocevar says it will continue with that strategy to “constantly let people know about our products”.

While the all-electric battery-swapping Renault Fluence Z.E. is likely to attract the lion’s share of attention from the media in 2012, Hocevar said Renault Australia would continue to focus on Megane as the “pillar model” and work to establish it as a strong alternative in the most popular new-car category in Australia.

Hocevar admits the biggest hole in the Australian line-up – and the area most desperate for an overhaul – is the light-car segment. Renault Australia currently only competes with the hard-core Renault Sport Clio, which is priced from $36,490.

He said introducing the full range of the next-generation Clio, which is scheduled to debut at the 2012 Paris Motor Show in September, was Renault Australia’s next key focus. “We’re working really hard to get the next-generation Clio,” Hocevar said. “The next-generation Clio is a stunning car – all bias aside – and we know that we’re on a really good thing here and it is worth the wait. So when it comes out next year … we hope that within six months of its international launch we will have it in the Australian market.”

That ambition would see the all-new Clio on sale in Australia around March 2013. Hocevar said Clio would be priced in the same ballpark as the Volkswagen Polo and the upcoming Peugeot 208, suggesting a price between $18,000 and $25,000. He said it was important that Clio was competitive not only with European cars but also with the Japanese and Korean light cars that dominate the segment.

Hocevar said the sub-light Twingo was not on Renault Australia’s radar because it is not available with an automatic transmission, but admitted the brand would look at the next-generation model if it came with a self-shifting option.

Despite the push to increase Renault Australia’s small- and light-car presence, Hocevar said he was very acutely aware that the brand needed to take one step at a time. “I’m very conscious that a brand needs to walk before it can run. I want our dealers to grow organically and profitably. I don’t want to bombard them with too much product too soon. It will be a progressive addition of product.”

Looking beyond 2012, Hocevar makes no secret that he wants to see Renault overtake Peugeot to become the top-selling French brand in Australia. “Our volume ambitions – I would hope – would take us beyond what Peugeot is doing in Australia at present.”

Last year Peugeot sold 5649 vehicles in Australia and this year is on track to hit approximately 5400. “Obviously our ambitions are to overtake any strategic competitor – within a reasonable timeframe,” Hocevar said.




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