Renault seeks a new start in China

PARIS - Renault SA wants to jump-start its feeble presence in China by building cars there with its Nissan Motor Co. affiliate and a local partner.

"We would like to start again, in a better way, in China," said Georges Douin, Renault's executive vice president for product and strategic planning and international operations. "We've not been successful. We've really been questioning our future in China."

Douin was speaking to journalists from Asia who were visiting Renault's r&d center north of Paris.

Although Renault's partnership in China in commercial vehicles has foundered, he said he is encouraged by the possibility of the Renault-Nissan alliance re-entering China through a passenger-car partnership with Dongfeng Motors, one of China's leading automakers.

"Nissan has started talking with Dongfeng. This brings us some more dynamism," Douin said. He added that the Chinese government considers Renault and Nissan to be one company.

He showed a slide projecting the Renault-Nissan group's sales in 2010, which portrayed Renault as the larger player in China. It also showed no Nissan presence in India and no Renault presence in the United States.

Douin confirmed that a forthcoming model from Dacia, Renault's Romanian subsidiary, will be a medium-sized sedan powered by an engine between 1.4 and 1.6 liters. It's slated to compete against Korean models.

Renault and Dacia are designing the car so that it can be built in either a Nissan or Renault plant, although it initially will be built at Dacia's factory in Romania. It is scheduled for launch there in late 2004. Renault has said that Russia will be the next country to build the car.

The car will have to be capable of using poor-quality gasoline and will need to have air conditioning, he said.

He also said the car is unlikely to have the latest technology since it is designed to be built from local materials in less-developed economies. For example, he said, rather than choose the best grade of steel for the springs and suspension, Renault had to determine what quality of steel was available in Romania and then design parts using that grade of steel.

You can reach James B. Treece at jtreece@crain.com
Tags: Renault Launch

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