Renault is preparing a blitz of new models for the next two years. At a conference last week, boss Carlos Ghosn promised the brand increased sales of up 10 percent in 2008 alone, brought about by the launch of new key models such as the Koleos 4x4, Laguna Coupe, and the all-new Megane. Autocar's was present at the announcement, and has the full story on all of Renault's biggest debutants.
Koleos: a slow starter in the 4x4 segment
The Korean-built Koleos SUV was revealed in the metal at Renualt’s annual results conference on 14th February. Renault sources said the car uses the same drivetrain as the Nissan X-Trail. It will get the option of 150- and 170bhp 2.0-litre diesel engines and in some territories, Nissan’s 170bhp 2.5-litre petrol unit. There’ll also be a choice of six-speed manual and an auto box.The Koleos will be sold on the strength of its ‘excellent visibility and comfort’ both of which are regarded as Renault staples. It also has a split tailgate like the original Range Rover.However, ambitions for the Koleos are relatively modest. 100,000 units will be made each year at the Samsung factory, split between the Koleos and its Samsung QM5 sister car. "We are not planning for sector leadership," said an insider.
Laguna GT: four-wheel steer, here this year
Next up, at the Geneva show in March, will be the sporty Laguna GT. This model is equipped with the company’s new 'Active Drive' four-wheel steer system. This allows the rear wheels to move both in parallel and in opposition to the direction of the front wheels, depending on the driving conditions.Senior Renault bosses told Autocar that the system was extremely effective and could, in time, become "Renault’s Quattro". However CEO Carlos Ghosn admitted the Laguna’s market sector was under pressure and Laguna production was already being downwardly adjusted to compensate.
New Megane: this time it's a looker, not a shocker
Renault will unveil a concept version of the new Megane at Geneva too. One director told Autocar that new Megane "would be a big shock, a really big shock. It is one of the most beautiful cars in the world."The production Megane will appear at the Paris show in September and Autocar will drive it in November. It should be the first evidence of the new Renault design language, which compromises between the previous avant-garde approach and something more mainstream.Company boss Carlos Ghosn was highly critical of the current Megane, which he regarded as too polarising a shape for a mass-market model. Ghosn also halted the development of the new Twingo for a last minute re-style.
Others inbound: Laguna Coupe, Dacia Sandero, and a new Vel Satis
The Paris show in September will see the launch of the Laguna Coupe is its final showroom form. Under the bonnet will be the Renault-Nissan 3.0 dCi V6 diesel engine that will also be used by Nissan’s Infiniti division.A right hand drive version of the current Dacia Logan budget model is also on the cards for the UK. No timescale was revealed last week, but the Sandero hatch is expected launch in early 2009.Further out, Renault’s sources say they are working on cars above the Laguna, despite the poor sales of the Vel Satis and Avantime luxury coupe.The sources added that Renault will produce luxury models even though "the D segment is under pressure from emissions regulations"."However, it is a strong market. The Espace is good example of a higher-end vehicle that isn’t a direct BMW rival," the source said. It was also hinted that the new larger Renaults will share parts with Nissan models.
And then... a new Renault Alpine
Patrick Pélata, vice president of product and planning, confirmed Autocar’s story that Renault wants to revive the classic Alpine brand and is working with Nissan engineers on a new sports car project.Pelata told Autocar that the Nissan 350Z platform is too expensive for a new Alpine. "Ideally," he said, "Renault wants to build a very compact and inexpensive sports car, perhaps of a similar size and price to the old Smart Roadster."