UPDATE, 4 February 2021: Renault Australia has today confirmed the French brand will be handled locally by independent distributor Ateco from April 2021.
In a joint statement issued today, Renault said the existing national network of 53 showrooms and three service-only outlets will remain unchanged for the time being.
Representatives for Ateco and Renault are yet to answer media questions about plans to introduce Renault's budget brand Dacia in Australia.
However CarAdvice understands Dacia – a Romanian badge – could be a possibility for local showrooms once a feasibility study is undertaken.
The original story published on Monday appears below.
1 February 2021: French car maker Renault is poised to move to an independent distributor in Australia – after five years of continuous sales decline and the weakest result in almost a decade, CarAdvice understands.
Local representatives for Renault are yet to confirm the change in distribution, however an official announcement is believed to be imminent.
Renault cars will continue to be sold in Australia – and existing models will receive parts, service and warranty support – however the brand will be represented by the nation’s largest independent vehicle importer, Ateco, which has been handling start-up and established brands since 1985.
It is unclear whether the existing network of approximately 60 Renault outlets nationally will continue to represent the brand, or if new dealers will be appointed.
Of note, Ateco helped deliver record sales in Australia for rival French brand Citroen between 1993 and 2013.
Renault returned to Australia in 2001 following a global merger with Nissan in 1999.
After a peak of 11,525 sales reported in 2015, Renault has been in freefall in Australia ever since – and had reduced its model range to two SUVs, one hot hatch and three vans.
However, after 20 years of being sold in Australia under the umbrella of Nissan – and after a revolving door of local management changes – Renault has elected to appoint Ateco, which has previously represented French rival Citroen, among other brands.
Ateco is Australia’s biggest independent automotive distributor. When multinational car companies don’t want to set up shop in a particular country, they appoint an independent agent.
In Australia, Ateco has represented brands such as Suzuki (1985 to 2000), Volkswagen (1988 to 1991), Audi (1988 to 1991), Citroen (1993 to 2013), Fiat (2002 to 2012), Alfa Romeo (1998 to 2012), Kia (2000 to 2006), Ferrari (2005 to 2013), Lotus (2011 to 2016), Maserati (2005 to present), Great Wall Motors (2009 to 2016), Chery (2011 to 2018), Foton (2013 to 2017), SsangYong (2012 to 2018), LDV (2015 to present) and Ram (2016 to present).
Renault first came to Australia in 1903 when 60 vehicles were imported, and the cars were assembled locally in 1964 in the Melbourne suburb of Heidelberg. After local assembly concluded, the brand was represented by various independent importers.
When Renault relaunched in Australia in 2001 after a five-year hiatus, the company boldly claimed it wanted to be the top-selling European brand locally by the end of the decade. It never got close.
In 2010, Renault sold fewer than 2000 cars. Leading European brand Volkswagen delivered more than 38,000 vehicles that year.
Data shows Renault sales in Australia have fallen for the past five years in a row and 2020 was the weakest result in eight years – representing a 40 per cent decline compared to its peak tally of 11,525 set in 2015.
Other French brands have also continued to struggle in Australia.
Peugeot has posted three years in a row of sales decline – and its 2020 result was less than a quarter of its peak 13 years ago.
Peugeot's sister brand Citroen has been in reverse for six years in a row – and in 2020 posted its worst annual result since modern records were kept. Just 203 Citroens were reported as sold in 2020 versus a peak of 3800 vehicles in 2007.
Sales of cars sourced from France hit their lowest level in seven years in 2020, a tally that amounted to less than half the peak set in 2007 (see table below).
Amid the downturn, Renault reduced its range to two SUVs, one hot hatch and three vans, Peugeot currently has four cars and three vans, while Citroen is now down to just two small SUVs.
Since the arrival of French cars in Australia since the early 1900s, they have struggled to gain a foothold locally – even when certain models were manufactured here under licence in the 1960s.
However, official sales data over the past 20 years shows just how far French cars have fallen out of favour with Australian motorists – after showing some promising signs in 2007 in the lead-up to the Global Financial Crisis.
|Year||Renault sales in Australia||Peugeot sales in Australia||Citroen sales in Australia||Vehicles sourced from France|
Source: Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries. Country of origin data may include vehicles from other brands, and not all French-branded cars are made in France.