Renault says it is committed to Australia despite sales halving in just five years – after five years in a row in decline and its lowest market share in almost a decade.
The French car maker will streamline its range, axing the Clio city hatchback and Zoe electric car – and keep the Megane RS hot hatch as the only passenger-car options – and instead focus on the fastest growing segments of the market: SUVs and vans.
Renault sold only 2621 vehicles in the first half of 2020 – a decline of 34 per cent in a market that was down by 20 per cent – its weakest first half-yearly result since 2012.
At the current sales rate, Renault Australia is on track to post about 5000 deliveries in 2020, less than half its all-time peak in 2015, when 11,525 vehicles were reported as sold.
Following announcements that Holden will leave the Australian market at the end of the year, and Japanese car maker Honda will rationalise its dealer network by the middle next year, the boss of Renault Australia, Anouk Poelmann, told media during an online briefing: “Renault is not contemplating either of those outcomes”.
“We are here for the long haul with a model line-up that puts our brand in the middle of the largest and most profitable market segment (with) more new products in the pipeline,” said Ms Poelmann.
Renault spokesman Andrew Ellis said the brand’s future in Australia “wasn’t in doubt, but there was discussion”.
“We saw what happened with Holden, and we saw people asking about brands in Australia, and we just wanted to reaffirm today that is not an option for Renault – we are here for the long haul, and we’re staying,” he said.
When asked to forecast how long Renault’s sales recovery would take in Australia, Ms Poelmann said the market was still “very volatile … very unpredictable at the moment”.
“It’s honestly difficult to forecast our volume for the year,” said Ms Poelmann. “All I can say is that we are probably more focused on maintaining our share of the market. So far we have been tracking … in the right direction. Our ambition is to always show year-on-year growth on market share.”
Felix Boulin, the marketing director for Renault Australia said: “We … understand we can’t be all things to all people, however we are confident we can be a brand that appeals to 10 per cent of Australians based on our brand attributes and the channels we use to promote them.”
Renault Australia representatives later clarified the company is not aiming for 10 per cent market share locally, rather it believes it can return to its previous peak of 1 per cent market share (set in 2015) if it can convert a portion of the 10 per cent of the buying public that might consider its cars.
Ms Poelmann said the alliance with Nissan and Mitsubishi would bring backroom cost savings, such as shared parts warehouses and other operations not visible to customers, which also make its business more viable.
Armed with a new or refreshed line-up in 2021, Ms Poelmann said Renault was committed to being successful in Australia. “In 2020 we continue our journey to reposition Renault as an aspirational option for Australians … a credible contender as a premium alternative to the mainstream brands.”
Renault has about 60 dealerships and service points across Australia and the company says it is reviewing its network to determine which areas it needs to expand.
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