Schweitzer counts on 5,000 euro car to keep Renault in pole position

Paris. Renault's main engine for growth in central Europe will be the "5,000 Euro car" (project X90), which launches at the end of 2004.

The four-door family car is positioned as an alternative to the used cars now flooding the central European market.

Renault will manufacture the X90 at its Rumanian car company, Dacia. It will initially be available with a gasoline engine and later come in a diesel version. Negotiations are underway to also build the car in Morocco and Iran.

It took Renault 20 years to regain the crown as western Europe's best selling auto brand. Renault boss Louis Schweitzer is determined to stay No. 1 for as long as possible, but "not at any cost," Schweitzer said in an interview with Automobilwoche.

There are no plans to take part an incentive war. "Our strategy is profitable growth," Schweitzer said.

With total sales of approximately 929,000 vehicles in western Europe and a market share of 10.5 percent at the end of July, Renault claims the lead over Volkswagen (9.8 percent), Opel (9.4 percent) and Peugeot (8.6 percent).

Schweitzer believes Renault can hold the lead for a while. "Our products are attractive and the quality is right," he said.

The western European market, however, will not be growing much in the long-term. Central Europe has more potential. Renault aims to repeat its success in central Europe with "at least" a similar market share as it has in western Europe.

"In order to reach that goal we have already opened new bases in Slovenia and Turkey. We bought the Rumanian car manufacturer Dacia and started to build a new auto plant in Russia," he said.

Schweitzer has plans for further acquisitions before handing over his office to his successor, Carlos Ghosn, in 2005. "Our shopping trip is finished."

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