Renault Australia is in the process of rolling out a new light commercial vehicle (LCV) specialist dealer network to enable the brand to focus on building that side of its business ahead of the potential arrival of a new utility vehicle based on the 2015 Nissan Navara.
The Renault Pro+ dealership rollout is designed to complement the existing 46 showrooms across the country, but with “services tailored to LCV customers”, including longer trading hours, loan vans and dedicated “expert” staff.
The LCV side of Renault Australia’s business has played a crucial role in the brand’s local success. In 2014 Renault became the first French brand ever to sell more than 10,000 vehicles in Australia in a calendar year, and 34 per cent of those sales came from the brand’s three vans – the small Kangoo, mid-sized Trafic and large Master.
But the LCV story for Renault’s local arm could just be beginning, with the French brand set to add its first-ever utility vehicle in the coming years – something that Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar is clearly hoping will make its way to Aussie showrooms.
Speaking with CarAdvice at the launch of the new Renault Trafic, Hocevar suggested that while there’s no clear timeline for when the new Renault pick-up will arrive in Australia, he can see the potential for such a vehicle.
“If you look at what other European brands have got available in the commercial vehicle range, you know Volkswagen has got a good line-up: they’ve got three sizes of van, and a pick-up. We've got three vans but no pick-up,” he said.
“That’s a strategic competitor for us globally, so it’s going to be nice to be able to offer a competitive suite of products,” he said.
The Nissan Navara is set to underpin both the new Renault pick-up and a future Mercedes-Benz ute, too, as part of a joint-venture between the Renault-Nissan alliance and Daimler's commercial arm. That’s something Hocevar and the team at Renault Australia will likely keep a close eye on, given the Mercedes-Benz LCV range currently consists of only two vans – the Vito and the Sprinter. The smaller model, the Kangoo-based Citan, isn’t sold here.
When asked if potential buyers of the new ute will see the vehicle unveiled this year, Hocevar said he doesn’t think that will be the case. Perhaps 2016, then.
As for supporting the new ute, the company’s Pro+ network appears to be part of the strategy for gearing up for the new ute model.
“We’ve already got LCV dealers – but Pro+ is all about taking it to the next level,” he said. “It’s not just about putting up some additional signage or them opening up their service department for different hours to suit LCV customers: there’s a whole structure that sits behind it as well.”
Pro+ dealers will display a range of vehicles set up for different work applications and there will be ties to allied manufacturers of aftermarket fitment products, refrigeration specialists and more.
“If we introduce other products in other segments then that would obviously be a good platform to support it,” he said of the potential new ute model.
The Pro+ network will allow customers to “test drive their next tool of trade”, according to Hocevar. He said the rollout will see three locations open in the short term (Melbourne, Gold Coast and Adelaide), with eight Pro+ dealers due by the end of 2015.