Renault Australia managing director, Rudi Koenig, said if the decision was made to launch the Latitude in Australia it would not arrive until next year at the earliest.
“Whether it replaces Laguna here will be an issue for us for next year but it’s certainly a prospective vehicle for our market,” Mr Koenig said.
The Latitude will be assembled by Renault Samsung in Korea where it is known as the SM5. The SM5 is the sister car to the Nissan Maxima/Teana.
A global release issued by Renault overnight said that the Latitude was “due to go on sale this autumn (our spring) in Asia, Africa, Russia, Turkey, Gulf, Australia and Mexico”, but Mr Koenig said the Australian announcement was slightly premature.
“Basically it’s in our longer term planning for our market to replace Laguna and it’s obviously the most probable candidate,” he said.
Mr Koenig admitted he was “disappointed” with the Laguna’s recent sales performance. Last year just 95 were sold in Australia with the car in run-out mode for much of the time, and while sales of the all-new model have increased to 78 in the first five months of 2010 it is still far from competitive in the sub-$60K medium segment, clinging to just 0.2 percent of the market.
“It’s a very hot field in Australia because we have local manufacturers in that field as well and it makes it a very hard segment for us. Laguna has proven to be a hard sell so we are looking for a product to replace Laguna in our product range.”
Renault has released few details of the Latitude, with the interior, equipment lists and engine ranges to be revealed in full at the Paris Motor Show in early-October.
Its dimensions – 4.89m long, 1.83m wide and 1.49m high – make it 19cm longer, 2cm wider and 4cm higher than the current Laguna.
The bi-Xenon headlamps will be adaptive and directional while the tail-lamps will be LEDs. Renault says the boot will be one of the biggest in its class and that the equipment list places an emphasis on innovation and travelling comfort.
Interior features will include a dual-mode air ioniser with double fragrance diffuser, triple-zone climate control, massaging driver’s seat, Bose premium audio system and the Renault hands-free card.
Mr Koenig said he did not expect Latitude to be a volume seller in Australia, but saw it going head-to-head with the Maxima, Volkswagen Passat, Peugeot 407, Citroen C5 and other medium/large offerings from Japan.
“It’s in our possibility plans at this stage, but we’re focusing on all the products we’re launching this year at the moment,” he said.
The Fluence heads the list of new models to be introduced in the second half of 2010, and it will be officially unveiled at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney in mid-October.
Mr Koenig confirmed the Megane hatch, Coupe-Cabriolet and RenaultSport 250 will also join the local line-up later this year, as will the new Kangoo van.
“Unfortunately it’s late in the year so we’re not going to be able to have an impact on our sales results this year, but certainly it should help us next year,” he said.