Renault will launch a luxury ‘Initiale Paris‘ sub-brand in China and Europe as part of a bid to push the French manufacturer further upmarket.
The concept – powered by a 1.6-litre diesel engine – is said to tease the next-generation Renault Espace people-mover, however Renault also says the car “embodies the brand’s expertise and ambitions in the premium segment”.
The Initiale Paris line would offer exclusive technologies and options, and be differentiated from regular Renault products by unique exterior elements and interior trim options.
Compared with Citroen’s DS models, Renault marketing chief Stephen Norman told Automotive News the Initiale Paris models would be “more refined and sophisticated than the DS, a little classier, and less brash”.
The first car to be baged Initiale Paris will be a premium version of the Renault Clio, due to launch in Europe by the end of 2014.
The next Espace will go on sale for the 2016 model year and is being designed with the Chinese market in mind.
“The silhouette, the front end, the cabin – generally what you see is what you get,” says Renault design chief Laurens van den Acker of the similarity the production Espace will have to the Initiale Paris concept.
China is a booming market for French car makers, whose products are perceived as luxury goods comparable with more established German marques. In China, Citroen DS models are sold separately from standard Citroens through a standalone dealership network.
“Half the money that’s made in the car industry is made in the premium [segment], so if you don’t have a premium brand you’re not exposed to this profit. If you say we are not doing premium, it’s okay, but you’re robbing yourself of potential profits,” van den Acker said.
The Initiale Paris badge was first used for a 1995 concept car (pictured above), and was planned for the car maker’s Vel Satis and innovative Avantime models, however both of those cars were sales failures.
Renault also has the Dacia brand in Europe, positioned as a budget-option beneath the French brand, and will launch the Alpine sports brand in 2016. The move mirrors the tiered structure of automotive giants like Fiat and Volkswagen.