Renault Australia says its ever-growing credibility in the light commercial vehicle market will help it sell the much-anticipated new ‘Alaskan’ dual-cab ute, but that it will focus more on the ‘lifestyle’ side of the market against top-spec dual-cabs nevertheless.
The company previewed its incoming dual-cab last year with the Alaskan concept, though it’s unclear if the production car will wear that badge. As with the imminent Mercedes-Benz Pickup, it will be a subtly restyled version of Alliance Partner Nissan’s Navara.
As we reported last week, Renault is expected to reveal the production ute this year overseas, though any local launch won’t happen until late 2017 at the earliest.
Australia is nevertheless considered a notable market for the vehicle along with South America, unsurprising considering 4x4 utes are the third-biggest segment here, with 12.3 per cent market share. More than 130,000 HiLuxes, Rangers and co. sold here in 2015.
Speaking with CarAdvice this week, Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar wouldn’t go into specifics on the production version, or local launch timing — save to say said Australian launch was “a very high level probability” — but did reveal some insights into the company’s thinking locally.
“Obviously it’s a key segment in Australia and one we want to break into. We won’t necessarily be one of the early markets to go though, any global lunches will see a subsequent launch here,” he said.
“I think we can operate in a number of different worlds, where we put our focus will probably be towards the lifestyle side of the vehicle rather than the true workhorse [side], and I say that because from a consumer perception point of view, that's where they think we have a right to play, and what they expect us to do would be there.
“We know the credibility of its underpinnings gives us the capability of it being a genuine workhorse like a Navara or any other competitor, but our alliance partner has good credibility there and they do it well. A little bit of that space where Amarok has played in, we could go to.
“Having said all that, the Pro Plus network and that customer base will give them [dealers] capability in fleets as well.”
Renault’s Pro+ Network is a specialised wing dedicated to Renault’s commercial vehicle operations, which is the top-selling European van brand in Australia. Hocevar said its growing reputation in the commercials space gave the company newfound credibility.
“It’s credibility five years ago that we didn't have. Not saying we’ve perfected or maximised, it’s an ongoing work in progress, but the road presence of our vans and the credibility of those client relationships, that really supports the development.”
Renault is keeping quiet on all the Alaskan's tech specs, but we can draw a few conclusions. The Navara’s solid axle with coils will feature, while the ‘190dCi’ badges on the Alaskan concept indicate the 190hp (140kW/450Nm) 2.3-litre twin-turbo diesel engine from the Navara will carry over.
MORE: Renault Alaskan history