Renault to launch five new models over the next three years


Mumbai: Encouraged by the success of the small car Kwid, Renault India Pvt. Ltd plans to launch a raft of new models over the next three years as it seeks to further strengthen its hold on one of the fastest growing auto markets of the world.

Targeted at multiple segments of the market, the plan includes launching at least five new models between 2017 and 2019, two people familiar with the company’s plan said, requesting anonymity.

In an emailed response, Sumit Sawhney, managing director and chief executive of Renault India, said, “While I cannot divulge too many details on the future product strategy, I can confirm that we have an aggressive product plan for India, clearly demonstrating that India is one of the key markets in Renault’s global expansion plans.”

Sawhney pointed out that from a product perspective for the second half of 2016, one can expect a number of enhancements to the existing range.

It has already announced a 1-litre variant and automated manual transmission (AMT) option on the Kwid that will be launched this year.

Considering the popularity of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) in India, most of Renault’s future models would be targeted at SUV buyers, said the first of the two people cited above. Among others, Renault aims to be a serious rival to SUV market leader Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd. “In another two years or so, they will have at least one model that will be pitted against one in the Mahindra line-up,” he said.

Helped by new model launches, particularly in the utility vehicles segment, passenger vehicles sales in India have expanded for 12 consecutive months. Sales rose 3% to 223,000 units in June, compared with a year ago. Overall sales growth was outpaced by the growth in the utility vehicle segment, which expanded 35.24% to 55,825 units in the same month, according to industry body Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturer, or Siam (Siam). The SUV share in the overall passenger vehicle market rose 25% in the June quarter from 19% a year ago.

The first of the new model pipeline is likely to be a premium sedan based on the Megane hatchback. The model, slated for an India launch in 2017, will replace the Fluence sedan and is positioned between the Honda City and Civic. This is set to be followed by the new generation Koleos, a premium SUV that is expected to go on sale in India sometime in 2017-end or 2018-beginning, said the second of the two people cited above. Based on the Renault Nissan’s common module family (CMF) platform, Renault launched the new-generation Koleos in March 2016 at the Beijing Auto show. The CMF platform is a vehicle architecture developed by Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co. that allows developing multiple body types on a common structure. Considering the poor response of the current generation Koleos, Renault may re-engineer the car heavily as and when it decides to launch it here, he said. It is pitted against the Hyundai Santa Fe among other models, he added.

The Koleos is likely to be followed by the Kaptur, a seven-seater crossover that will compete with the Hyundai Creta, among other models, and is expected to be launched in India by the end of 2017, said the first of the two people. Renault also plans to bring out another model on the CMF platform. Resembling a van and expected in 2018, the model will compete with the Maruti Omni and Eeco. Also in the works is a rival to the Suzuki Vitara Brezza, a compact SUV, which is expected to be launched in India in the beginning of 2019, he said.

Kwid, an SUV-styled hatchback launched in September 2015, has helped the local arm of the French carmaker outsell rival Honda Cars India Ltd and become the fourth largest car maker in the June quarter, according to Siam.

In the three months that ended in June, Renault sold 25,374 units against Honda Cars India Ltd’s 25,064 units in the same period a year ago.

In a market where buyers have a strong preference for models from Maruti Suzuki India Ltd and Hyundai Motor India Ltd, Renault has managed to corner the much-sought-after 5% share for the first time since its entry in the passenger car segment. Renault’s market share during the June quarter was 5.33% against 0.17% over a year ago. Honda’s share slipped to 5.27% from 8.56% a year ago in the same period as sales of its flagship City and other car models, including Amaze and Brio, plummeted amid a change in buyer preference for petrol models and heightening competition. Since its launch in September 2015, Renault has sold over 65,000 units of the Kwid and received over 125,000 bookings, said Sawhney. A fast-paced expansion of sales outlets has also helped. Albeit still smaller compared with bigger rivals, Renault’s sales and service network went up to 250 at the end of 2015 from 157 a year ago. It plans to add another 20 by the end of the current calendar year.

“The success in the small car has given them (Renault) immense confidence. Considering that it constitutes a close to 86% of the market, no global car maker can succeed in India without cracking it,” said Abdul Majeed, auto practice leader at Price Waterhouse and Co., a consulting firm. He however, cautioned that Renault will need to constantly beef up its distribution and retain a sharp focus on the after-sales service to continue the momentum.