Renault will roll out five larger upscale models by the end of the decade as part of the company’s burgeoning new car programme and a determination to exorcise memories of the “financially disastrous” Vel Satis and the abortive Avantime.
The automaker’s South Korean Samsung Motors division is playing a pivotal role in that strategy, firstly with the seven-seater Koleos compact SUV crossover, due early next year, and a likely jointly developed large sedan.
Senior Renault management remain true to president Carlos Ghosn’s edict that “podium” quality standards and design appeal can elevate the brand, rather than annexing an existing premium player.
Patrick Blain, vice president of sales and marketing, said: “Renault’s imperative to succeed with top of the range products involves profitable ways of enhancing the brand and improving quality. The rewards are very valuable.”
Renault “considered very closely the purchase of premium brands, like Ford taking over Jaguar, and GM buying Saab, which have so far failed. With more efficient development, production costing and processes we can produce lower volumes for viable returns.
“We will not repeat stories like the Vel Satis, which has been a financial disaster, nor the departed Avantime.”
The ungainly Vel Satis was described by senior design vice president Patrick Le Quement as: “the automotive equivalent of wearing a suit without removing the hanger.”
The Koleos will be joined by a larger four-wheel drive counterpart for the Renault and Samsung brands and commitment to Korean design facilities and production efficiencies is likely to lead to a top of the line sedan.
Blain said: “Combining the strengths of Renault, Nissan and Samsung with the Koleos is a credible route. We cannot afford not to have a large saloon. The programme needs a state of the art V6 diesel, with SUV crossover applications in Korea.
“It remains an open question where a large saloon would be built. In parallel there is no doubt we will use the Samsung capacity of 300,000 units across the Alliance.”
Renault’s brand elevation involves a full four-seat Laguna coupe, arriving next year, following the redesigned third generation hatchback and wagon versions in October.
“The Laguna coupe, to be built in reasonable but not large numbers is viable”, said Blain, “because of the reduced threshold at which relatively low volume niche products can survive commercially.”
The second-generation Laguna has been prone to reliability problems and Ghosn has decreed that it meets the top three quality target against all comers, including premium rivals. Internal figures showed that in 2003 40% of Lagunas spent time off the road during the first two years of ownership, falling to 20% in 2004 and 8% last year.