Carlos Ghosn says the new Kadjar will give Renault-Nissan greater economies of scale
The Kadjar shares much of its mechanical components with the Nissan Qashqai
The reinvented Espace was revealed at the Paris motor show last year
Renault bosses have already warned the upcoming Alpine sports car won't look like the original concept
Renault says it will launch five new cars in 2015. Announcing the move at the unveiling of the French firm’s new Kadjar SUV, Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn said Renault will bring a new A-segment car, a D-segment saloon and a new pick-up truck to market this year to join the already revealed Kadjar and Espace.
Renault’s plans to introduce a new, back-to-basics model in the same vein as the Citroën C4 Cactus were revealed in December with the Value Up concept car. Although at the time Renault said the model would not make it to production, it’s known that elements from the concept - including its new platform - could be used to inform the next generation of Renault’s A-segment city cars.
Any new model in the D-segment for Renault is likely to herald the return of the Laguna name. Previously, Renault officials have told Autocar that the next Laguna will come with “fluid and emotional” styling, echoing themes seen on the firm’s Captur, Clio, Twingo and Zoe.
The reinvented Espace was revealed at the Paris motor show in September last year, with the MPV morphing into more of a crossover shape. Although the car will be available in both five-seat and seven-seat guises, neither option will come to the UK in the short term.
Ghosn believes the Kadjar crossover, Renault’s version of the Nissan Qashqai, will give the Renault-Nissan Alliance “a scale advantage no one can match” once it reaches full production in Spain and China.
Speaking exclusively to Autocar after unveiling the Kadjar in Paris last week, Ghosn described the car as “an extremely strong product” and “a huge opportunity for Renault”. However, he was evasive about predicting the size of its success.
Could this become the best-selling Renault of all?
“That’s hard to say. We’ve tested it with customers and distributors and the response has been extremely strong. It reminds us of the response we had to its sister, the Captur crossover, before that model went on sale. And as you know, Captur now leads its class in France and across Europe.
“What I can say is that Kadjar will be great at competing with our rivals. It shares a common platform with Qashqai, and this means we can compete with the world’s biggest car companies. Our competitiveness in terms of investment and parts cost should be close to the best.”
How important is the Kadjar’s styling to its success?
“It’s vital. This game will be played on the attractiveness of the product. We believe Kadjar has the same styling appeal as Captur, but we have no customers yet, so we can’t be certain. With Captur, we had very good feedback, but it was nothing compared with what we have achieved in sales.”
Do you believe the crossover market will last?
“It will remain strong. These models offer great versatility, and all our research tells us people really enjoy that. Whether the trend will last 10 or 15 years I can’t say, but for the foreseeable future — which means the next four or five years — we think demand will be strong, not just in Europe but around the world. Cars like these make up one sale in four across the world, and one in three in China.”
How are recent currency shifts affecting your companies?
“The volatility began two years ago, and the effect then was negative on both our revenues and our income. Even though the euro has recently moved ‘the right way’ against the pound and dollar, we’re still in adverse territory because of really large declines in Russia and Argentina.”
How bad are things in Russia?
“Everyone is hurting. The market was down 11 per cent last year and is forecast to drop another 20 per cent this year. That’s a third of it, gone in two years. People usually scream when there’s a four or five per cent decline, so you can see just how bad it is. But we will adapt. The potential of Russia is still there. We must maintain a readiness for the take-off that is coming. It is just a matter of time.”
Nissan and Renault are great supporters of electric cars. What’s your current view of the market?
“I’m predicting steady growth from present levels. At first, we were impatient for bigger sales than we see today, but I still believe the market will pick up, little by little. Sales will accelerate from time to time as emissions laws, which are only going in one direction, tighten further.
“Technically, electric cars are a big success. They are accepted worldwide and they’re the only serious option as zero-emissions vehicles. Other alternatives lack maturity and cost-effectiveness. So I believe the EV is going in the right direction.”
Do you need to have more electric models?
“We don’t believe it’s a question of adding more cars, although the models we make have a natural lifecycle, so you’ll see them being renewed. Our advantage is that we were first in the sector. We have the best understanding of the market and lots of knowledge about how people actually use electric cars.”
Don’t you need more Renault and Nissan hybrids and plug-ins to support your EVs?
“One type isn’t a rival for another. An electric car maker needs a variety of technologies to meet the emissions challenge, but some push particular technologies more than others. You will see some hybrids in our line-up. But we’re going to continue to promote the EV market because we think it makes up one of the biggest untapped market areas in the world today.”
Your partner in the sports car Alpine project has departed, and demand for sports cars is low in the modern market. How are prospects?
“Sports cars are certainly niche, but they still have an enthusiastic following. Alpine is a great name, so we see it as an important asset. We’re still working on the cars, but we’ll be ready to talk fairly soon.”
Do you think Alpine can be profitable?
“This [long pause] is what we are studying…”
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