Renault workers in France are planning to demonstrate against the introduction of the new Latitude model, which is imported from South Korea.
According to reports, the French GTC union plans to ‘bus in’ auto workers to the Paris motor show, where the Latitude will make its public debut at the beginning of October. Unions at Peugeot-Citroën are also said to be concerned at more home-brand production being sourced from overseas.
The new Mondeo-sized Latitude is based on the Samsung SM5 (which in turn is based on the current Laguna) but will not be sold in the UK. However, Renault is very keen to keep a foothold in Europe’s market for Mondeo-class cars, particularly because of very poor sales of today’s Laguna.
However, the French car maker faces opposition from the government (which owns 15 per cent of the company) on importing models made overseas.
News agency reports today quote French industry minister Christian Estrosi as saying “he would be keeping a close watch” on the Latitude project because Renault had promised the import volumes would remain “marginal”.
The French government, which has two representatives on the Renault board, has a record of leaning on domestic manufacturers to encourage them to purchase more components locally and to guarantee domestic production.
Renault’s presence in Europe’s large car sector has been collapsing for some years. The upmarket Vel Satis hatchback was a comparative failure, and the ageing Espace has been overtaken by Ford’s S-Max. The current Laguna is estimated to have sold around 90,000 last year, about half of Renault’s sales plan.
Figures from JD Power suggest that Renault currently holds 3.4 per cent of the European large car market, down from 7.5 per cent in 2003.
Renault has still not announced its plans for replacing the Espace and Laguna, despite confirming the factory that makes them will gradually shift to van production.