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by Tim Beissmann

After a product-focused 2011 in which Renault Australia launched the Latitude medium/large car, the small Megane diesel and the Koleos compact SUV, 2012 has been earmarked as a year to grow the local business and brand awareness among mainstream consumers. Renault Australia plans to add around a dozen dealerships across the country in the New Year, dramatically expanding its current modest network of 20. The introduction of the Fluence Z.E. electric car will steal the headlines in 2012, although it will be the sales performance of the Megane that truly determines if the year is a success or a failure. The expanded Clio range won’t arrive in Australia until the first half of 2013 at best, while the electric Kangoo Z.E. van is another that will push out beyond 2012.

 

RENAULT FLUENCE Z.E.

Vehicle type: Small car. Timing: Q2 (Select Canberra customers), Q4 (public)

Australia’s first battery-swapping electric car will hit the streets before the middle of next year. The Fluence Z.E. has a range of 185km and its battery can be swapped for a fully charged one in less than four minutes. Priced in the high-$30,000s, the Fluence Z.E. will initially be sold to fleets and select customers in Canberra before becoming publically available from selected Renault dealers across the country in the fourth quarter. At 4748mm long, the Fluence Z.E. will be the largest alternative energy vehicle available in Australia in 2012. A 70kW/226Nm electric motor drives the front wheels, and the lithium-ion battery takes approximately six-eight hours to charge from a household power point. Standard features include dual-zone climate control, automatic headlights and wipers, Bluetooth connectivity and the OSCAR navigation system, which incorporates information on the nearest battery charge and switch stations.