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SA-built Renault a 'budget beater'

2007-11-23 07:51

Hailey Philander

Johannesburg - Renault will build its new global car Sandero in South Africa from 2009, the company announced at a media briefing on Thursday.

To compete with the Toyota Yaris, Kia Picanto, VW Citi Golf, Fiat Palio, Chevrolet Aveo, Opel Corsa Lite and Tata Indica, the new compact car will be built at Nissan's Rosslyn plant, outside Pretoria.

Local journalists were invited to the preview of Renault's new budget hatchback, but the company would not comment on expected sales volumes or indicative pricing.

Details regarding specification and pricing will be made available at next year's Auto Africa show, Patrick Pelata, executive vice president for product planning and the programmes leader for the Asia-Africa region said in his address.

Regarded as a truly global car derived from the Renault/Dacia Logan platform, Sandero will also be built in Romania, Russia, Morocco, Colombia, Iran, India and Brazil.

Incidentally, several of these plants currently produce the budget Logan sedan, though Renault executives have said that local production of this model remains uncertain.

Brazil will be the first country where the new hatchback goes to market next month, ahead of its European debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March. It will be launched in Europe in July 2008.

The preview for South African buyers is in October at next year's Auto Africa Motor Show and the car goes on sale here in the first quarter of 2009.

Furthermore, it is hoped that Sanderos built in South Africa will also be exported to other global right-hand drive markets.

Model blitz

In addition to the Sandero announcement Renault revealed that it is preparing a 10-model blitz for South Africa over the next three years.

New Sandero, described by Renault's commercial director for Asia and Africa, Thierry Koskas, as being "a lot of car for your money" will be the most affordable of these new models.

Koskas further viewed Sandero as a car with big volume potential that would become a vital expansion model for Renault.

South Africa has been identified as a key market in Renault's Commitment 2009 plan, and according to Pelata, the move to manufacture the car locally forms part of the company's global strategy for outside Europe.

Asked whether the current market conditions in South Africa, with its declining sales volumes, should have posed a significant deterrent to continued investment here, all Renault executives were positive that the current market conditions are temporary and would improve with time.

Customer satisfaction

When Renault SA's current position within the market, particularly with reference to customer satisfaction, was questioned, Pelata mentioned that while the local company was aware that it had issues to be addressed, he assured these problems would be fixed by mid-2008.

According to him, issues pertaining to vehicle quality, servicing and parts pricing, had been carried over from models first introduced in 2001 and 2002. But Pelata assured that through Renault SA's Confiance initiative, these problems were being addressed.

He was also positive that, while the local subsidiary had not been launching many new models recently, the wave of new cars, including the Koleos crossover SUV, would help to reestablish Renault's reputation.

However, managing director in waiting Xavier Gobille assured that while these changes were necessary, he had not attached any time frame to them. Current MD Jean-Jacque Le Goff has been reassigned and heads back to Paris to start what he would merely refer to as "a continental project" in January.

Gobille, a former marketing, network and aftersales vice president at Renault SA, mentioned that a tough approach was required to remain competitive in the local market.

Sandero, when it arrives, is not expected to cannibalise on Clio and Twingo (if it is launched here) sales, and Renault is sure its entry-level hatchback will give it significant leverage in the ultra-competitive B-segment.


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