2007: the year Renault went product crazy
The new Twingo is the beginning of the most ambitious model offensive in the history of Renault. The future product strategy of the biggest French car maker is based on three core elements: a more homogenous and less polarising design; additional bodystyles in all segments; and more cost-saving cooperation projects with Nissan and Samsung. In the five remaining months of 2007, La Regie will launch no fewer than five new cars. In addition to the Mk3 Laguna and its Grandtour estate spin-off, we are going to see the replacement for the Kangoo (in three- and five-door form), the Clio Grandtour derived from this year’s Geneva show car, and the long-wheelbase Grand Modus with more space for rear-seat passengers and luggage. As well as broadening the range, Renault’s Napoleon - Carlos Ghosn - has ordered a major quality offensive to improve customer satisfaction and cut warranty bills.
Will 2008 be just as busy?
Nearly. Renault plans to make the most of its investment in F1. To make hay while its (mediocre) track success lasts, its hot hatchback family will grow with an RS version of the Twingo (above) powered by a 150bhp turbocharged 1.4. But the biggest splash in 2008 is of course the next Megane, which loses its controversial bottom in favour of a less controversial style. Four different versions are slated: three- and five-door hatchbacks, a sleek glass-roof coupe out in early 2009, and the practical Grandtour station wagon expected later the same year. What about today’s saloon and coupe-convertible? They may well be heading for extinction, as today’s models have sold like yesterday’s leftover stale cake. There is a however a good chance that Renault will re-enter the drop-top segment in late 2008 with a Clio CC. According to the Neuilly grapevine, this model uses a revolving single-piece hardtop similar to that of the Ferrari 575 Superamerica. Developed by Fioravanti, the conversion will be carried out by Webasto, we hear.
And what about the bigger Renaults?
Another important 2008 arrival is the Koleos crossover (above). Codeveloped with and produced in Korea by Samsung, this is Renault’s first SUV. Samsung is also the partner of choice for the follow-up to the slow-selling Vel Satis exec oddball. Never a company to shy away from bold products (remember the Avantime?), Renault is teaming up with one of its inhouse partners to make a stronger business case this time. Instead of joining forces with Infiniti and opting for a high-end mix of rear-wheel drive and thirsty V6/V8 engines, Monsieur Ghosn has plumped for the cheaper Korean option with a five-door front-wheel-drive hatchback powered by V6 diesel and petrol engines; these engines will also appear in the Laguna, Koleos, next Espace and the sporty Egeus conceived together with Nissan but using Laguna componentry. The Laguna range will be expanded, too. To add some gloss to the sensible Laguna, a coupe version is planned for late 2008 or early 2009 to steal attention away from the new Mondeo and Vectra.
What’s Renault’s plan for MPVs? They love MPVs!
Renault was indeed one of the founding members of the MPV genre and it isn’t standing still. The fourth-generation Espace/Grand Espace is due in 2009 and will continue the familiar theme, whereas the radical new Egeus (above) is due in 2010 as a new take on the breed. It’ll try to be four cars in one: SUV, minivan, estate and coupe. This leaves only the Scenic/Grand Scenic to be replaced, a move which is likely to happen in autumn 2009 and spring 2010 respectively. Although this rundown proves that Renault is about to plug a few yawning gaps in its portfolio, we are still waiting for a proper sports car (a reborn Alpine?), a credible up-market effort and for an emotional soft-top. But Msr Ghosn knows he must get the bread-and-butter cars right before he can go for such luxuries.