Better late than never. The Renault Trafic mid-sized van will get a much-needed automatic transmission in current-generation guise, the company has confirmed.
A firm timeline is not clear because it’s a bit of a moving feast internally, but Renault Australia light commercial line manager Lyndon Healey says the self-shifter has at least been green lit.
A time time frame of about 18 months from now has been mooted, however.
The automatic question has long been asked by Renault Australia, but given the company sells vastly more Trafics into manual-heavy markets such as France, it’s been a low R&D priority.
But with growing demand for autos in the big-volume UK market too, the decision has been made in Australia’s favour at last. The availability of an automatic is vital for Renault here to stop its market share stagnating.
It expects 50 per cent more direct Trafic sales, as well as greater retention of Master or Kangoo owners set on staying with a one-brand fleet once the auto comes on stream.
The automatic in question will be a reworked version of the dual-clutch semi-auto ‘box used in the Euro-market Talisman and Espace, and not a more conventional robotised manual as with the old model, and matched to the familiar 1.6-litre turbocharged diesel engines.
“We can say for certain we are getting an auto Trafic, but it’s hard to pin down an exact date,” Healey said, though confirming it’d be in the current car’s life cycle, which began in 2015 and will go well beyond 2020.
These comments prove the veracity of those given to us back in September 2015 by Renault’s global executive vice-president Jerome Stoll, who said: “Frankly I think we have to reconsider… the auto gearbox is becoming more and more a part of the life of everybody”.
The manual-only Trafic, alongside the Ford Transit, has been losing out to some rivals with automatics like the Toyota HiAce, Hyundai iLoad and Volkswagen Transporter. Autos are especially favoured by tradies in congested areas.
Not that Trafic sales are stalling — yet. It managed 1730 sales in 2016, giving it 8.6 per cent share. But an auto would, by the company’s projections, put it beyond the Transporter (1960 sales last year). The leaders are the HiAce (7478 in 20167) and iLoad (5467).
Renault is this week launching a six-seater Trafic crew van derivative, which you can read all about here. Expect a review on that car by the end of the week.