If there’s a message that buyers are sending sellers in the Australian automotive industry, it’s that SUVs are what they want.
However, some brands – such as Renault Australia – aren’t rushing to add new models. The French maker’s recently revealed Kadjar SUV, which is a cousin of the Nissan Qashqai, isn’t on the brand’s local radar at this point in time because the company says it wants to get its current line-up right first.
Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar told CarAdvice at the launch of the new Trafic van that the company can’t afford to flood buyers with too many options – instead it needs to focus on what it has now.
“Relative to our size right now – 10,000 units and one per cent market share – what’s the best strategy to offer a product to that buyer type and get the most traction with right budget,” he said.
“We don’t have a huge vehicle park of people to go to, and we’re still conquesting and growing. I would like to be able to have a Koleos, current- or next-generation, at a very attractive price and a good level of specification, and still be able to cover the segment’s buyers.”
When asked why Renault wouldn’t follow a similar path to allied brand Nissan – which offers the Juke as its smallest offering, the Qashqai as a middle-ground model and the X-Trail as a more sizeable choice – Hocevar suggested that is an enticing proposition.
Indeed, the brand could do just that – the Captur would be an ideal entry-level SUV, with Kadjar as the next step up and the new-generation Koleos (which is set to grow in size and add a third-row seat option) as the biggest SUV in its ranks.
“That would be the most logical positioning of the three,” he said, before suggesting that buyers don’t think the same way.
“The very interesting thing about the SUV line-up for the brand here in Australia – if we just look at that medium SUV segment, which we all in the industry love to categorise and pigeonhole – when you look at the customer data, and how they shop around price, it’s very clear that examples of two medium-sized SUVs, which we tend to classify differently, [buyers] tend to go ‘that’s all the same for me; that one’s a little bit bigger, but I can get that one which is smaller with a higher level of specification’.
“Given that propensity, particularly in that medium-sized SUV market, for people to go either way: are you just better to go with one model to make sure you’ve got really good coverage, so let’s say from the high $20,000s to the low $40,000s, and get good volume out of that?” he posited.
In short, it appears price is still the key for Renault, not offering more models in different sizes.
“In Nissan’s example – they’re a very well established brand, and it’s a brand that 99 per cent of Australian households would know has a very good SUV line-up. And they’ve got scale, and they’ve got a huge customer base.
Hocevar was open about the costs involved in launching a new model, and just how easily that investment could go bad.
“Every time you launch a new model you’re investing millions of dollars. Every time you launch a new model you have to tell people about its nameplate, where it’s positioned in the market, what its feature/function/benefit is,” he said. “I would say the average SUV would cost upwards of $4 million to let everybody know about it.
“So that’s why at this point in time – relative to our scale, our network, our product portfolio – I don’t want to add too much complexity, and I want to make sure we get good performance out of what we’ve got before we start just putting products in.
“If you look back to what we could source, there’s a multitude of different models: Scenic, Twingo, and various others,” he said. “But at the moment we just have to focus not too much on product proliferation, but on the right products at the right price in the market. Build our customer base. Build our network. Then we can start looking at how we address scale.”
Hocevar admitted, however, that the new Kadjar could form part of the line-up if the brand’s growth continues on its current trajectory. Since the company’s most recent low point in 2010, Renault sales in Australia have increased from 1907 units to 10,014 in 2014. The brand claims it was the first French maker to eclipse the 10,000 unit mark in Australia, ever.
Hocevar said the brand needs to maintain steady growth.
“That’s probably the key reason you’re not seeing us go ‘oh yeah, Kadjar’s available, we’re going to go for it’. We just need to make sure Captur is going right, Koleos – current and future – are going right, and then when or if the time is right we could put another product in,” he said.
“I think we have to be really disciplined with that decision. It’s very tempting. I’m so tempted to go ‘give it to us!’,” he said.