Renault has exited Australia as a factory-backed distributor, handing the network to independent distributor RVDA – part of Neville Crichton's Ateco Automotive business – as part of the car-maker's global reorganisation, GoAutoNews.com reported.

Crichton, head of Ateco, the Australian distributor of such brands as Maserati, LDV and Ram, confirmed the existing dealer network would remain
unchanged, the report said.

He said the move "enables the Renault brand to stay in Australia".

Renault dealers contacted by GoAutoNews were happy about the change, one saying "things can only get better" while another said Ateco had a "strong record in Citroen that went when they lost the distribution".

The report said the Renault Australia office would close from 31 March and most staff would take redundancies while only a few would move with Renault to Ateco.

Dealer agreements were in the process of being transferred to Ateco.

Crichton said: "We have a strong track record in successfully building and managing world renowned automotive brands locally.

"This announcement enables the Renault brand to stay in Australia and allow its customers to continue enjoying the same high levels of service they have come to expect from one of the world's leading automotive brands."

Renault Australia managing director Anouk Poelmann said: "This announcement by Groupe Renault secures Australia's future as an important market. After recording a strong sales result in a difficult year, Renault is on track to cement its position as a premium mainstream brand in Australia."

GoAutoNews noted Ateco, which was bought by Crichton in 1985, previously distributed Renault rival Citroen, along with brands that have since taken up factory-backed representation including Kia, Audi, Volkswagen, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Haval, Great Wall Motors, Ferrari and SsangYong.

Renault was first sold in Australia in 1903 – four years after the company started – when 60 cars were imported. It returned to importing in the 1950s and assembled cars – including the 10, 12 and 16 – in Heidelberg, Victoria from 1966 before the plant closed in 1981, the report added.

LNC Industries then became the independent distributors of the brand. The brand petered out until it was revived in 2001 with a factory  backed operation with 60 dealers. By 2015 it was selling 11,525 vehicles a year but by 2020, that number dwindled to 6904 units, GoAutoNews said.