An all-new Renault sedan that will likely be the replacement for the Europe-only Laguna and Asian-made Latitude has been confirmed for launch in 2016.
Renault design chief Laurens van den Acker confirmed the news at the 2014 Paris motor show, defending the notion that sedans are becoming less meaningful in the automotive space which is currently dominated by four-door 'coupes' and SUVs.
“No, as a matter of fact next year we will come out with a large sedan,” he said.
“It depends how large [you mean] because you are Australians,” van den Acker said. But he confirmed it would be a “D-segment” model, likely meaning a rival to the likes of the Mazda 6, Skoda Octavia, Volkswagen Jetta, Hyundai i40, and the top-selling Toyota Camry.
The new model is also expected to spawn a D-segment sedan from Mitsubishi as part of a wide-reaching alliance between Renault-Nissan and Mitsubishi.
Van den Acker said the new model is an important one for the French brand despite medium-sized sedan sales dipping off.
“Even though in Europe it’s a segment that is under pressure, nonetheless, it holds it’s own. It declines, but very slowly. In my view it’s an important segment to be in, for your image as a car company,” he said.
“In my view, if you don’t have a D sedan, you’re not a real car company somehow,” van den Acker said.
“It’s a very important segment for Asia. Go to Korea or China, or any Asian country, and the D sedan is the ultimate. It’s a very important segment for the US. There are big markets where it’s still very important.”
He said slow sales – which have riddled the Laguna (above) and Latitude (top) – need not be considered a death knell for Renault sedans.
“My fear is also that if you’re a generalist brand and you don’t have a D sedan, you become a C-segment company,” he said. “And if you become a C-segment company, very quickly you could become a B-segment company. It’s as if you chop the head off of your line-up.
“I do think that if somebody drives an Audi A3, he is happy to know there is an A8 somewhere in the line-up. Even if he will never own it, you know. It pulls up the esteem of the brand.”
The new Renault sedan – likely singular, rather than two very different models for disparate markets – will be built in South Korea and Europe, according to van den Acker.
“This is why it’s important for us to expand into Asia more aggressively and into China starting in 2016 because without those markets we couldn’t afford to do these cars.
“In Europe the competition is tough, especially because it’s a very brand-conscious market,” he said.
“I think the next D sedan, I’m very proud of,” he said. “I’m pleased to make a car that you can park next to a BMW or Mercedes and get away with it, and it has a Renault badge.”
Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar said that, as with Europe, sedans aren’t the main game.
“We don’t put a huge amount of effort behind our sedans, C and D,” he said of the very slow-selling Fluence (below) and Latitude, respectively. “We tend to have them for a market coverage point of view. We don’t refer to them as our core models, we call the market coverage models.”
Hocevar said the two sedans in the local market don’t see much focus in terms of marketing dollars, but they do play an important role in giving Renault Australia vehicles that appeal to fleet buyers.
“But it’s a very competitive market in Australia, and particularly when we’ve got a few brands that are relying very heavily upon those segments within their mix,” he said.
“If we burn all our resources on those segments, we wouldn’t have enough to play with in our core segments that are the real strengths of the group,” Hocevar said.
“I don't think any French brand has had a particularly strong history in the D segment in Australia,” he said. “So let’s win credibility in other places first and then consider how we can be more present in that segment.”
Hocevar suggested the new larger sedan is not high on the brand’s priority list, but he did suggest the car would be offered if and when it is made available to the Australian market.
“We’ve got C and D segment sedans right now – we haven’t got any plans to drop either,” he said.
“We’ll dial it up when appropriate.”