Taking a cue from its alliance partner Nissan, which is reviving the Datsun nameplate to produce entry-level inexpensive cars for emerging markets, French car maker Renault is looking at commissioning a similar project for an entry-level car in the near future. The company has said India would be the first market for such a vehicle that would go head-to-head with cars like Maruti Alto k10, Hyundai Eon and Chevrolet Spark.
“We are the most successful car maker globally in entry-level cars as our design to cost is lowest and this is linked to the Indian preference for frugality,” said Carlos Tavares, chief operating officer, Renault. “We are trying to evaluate on an entry-level strategy for emerging markets and we are eager to kick off with India.”The French car maker has appointed Gerard Detourbet, often credited in-house as a master strategist on frugal engineering, as the alliance managing director for the development of a low-cost small car. He would be incharge for the small car built on a shared platform with Nissan.
At present, Renault-Nissan’s cheapest offering in India is the Pulse and Micra, which are built on a jointly-developed V platform. Detourbet’s new assignment would be used to make cars even smaller and cheaper than them.
The emphasis on this car would help Renault shed its image as a strictly European car maker to a global one, an area where Nissan has a distinct advantage. Renault sold 27.2 lakh cars in 2011 against Nissan’s 46.7 lakh units.
“We continue to be strong in Europe and are the second-largest selling brand after VW and ahead of Ford but we are growing very fast in overseas markets,” said Tavares. “By next year, more than half of our cars would be made outside of Europe and within the next 10 years, I expect Europe to contribute to less than 40% of our overall sales.”
Renault would launch a compact SUV Duster before the festive season this year and is expected to follow it up with a sedan based on Nissan’s Sunny taking its total number of cars in India to five. Its next round of growth beyond 2015 could be based on Detourbet’s entry-level small car.