PARIS - Renault plans to cut order-to-delivery times to two weeks, compared with six to eight weeks now, under a new Europe-wide distribution system by the end of next year.
Renault says the new system will reduce inventory and distribution costs by $160 million annually.
'Renault intends to make the delivery time a competitive weapon on the same level as the quality and the prices of its vehicles,' a spokesman said.
The new system, Projet Nouvelle Distribution, is being adopted by dealers in the Netherlands - where the plan was piloted - and will be in place in France and the United Kingdom around the end of November. It will roll out through a total of 16 European countries over the following 12 months.
Starting in mid-2000 and continuing to late 2001, dealers and plants gradually will reduce delivery time, with two weeks as the final goal in main markets, a little longer in Eastern Europe.
'In late 2001, Renault will possess all the tools necessary to meet an average time frame of two weeks between ordering a vehicle and taking delivery,' the company said. 'Half of this time will be for production and half for transportation and preparation of the vehicle.'
Renault estimates it will take about six months for a country to shift to Projet Nouvelle by modifying network management, adapting computer systems, reducing inventories, absorbing orders and training personnel.
Projet Nouvelle was initiated early in 1998 with pilot experiments involving the Renault sales subsidiary in the Netherlands; the Rouen, France, dealership site; and the Maubeuge, France, plant, where production of the Express commercial vehicle and later the Kangoo range was used to test the factory end of the scheme.
A training program is now under way throughout Renault's European network, involving about 28,000 people, including 2,500 dealers.
The new system has been developed by a 140-member team under project director Andre Bodis. Training has begun for personnel in Renault's body assembly and powertrain plants, and for commercial subsidiaries and suppliers.
The current system encourages Renault dealers to order and then sell mainstream models.
INTO THE DUSTBIN
'The real idea is to throw the `dealer commitment' system into the dustbin,' Bodis said. 'Before 1985, Renault decided which and how many cars would be made and sold. Then it pushed them to the dealers, who pushed them to the customers.
'The system changed in 1985, when Renault asked dealers to define their needs for cars. The anticipation was so high we did not know who was the customer. The result was an inventory of 290,000 cars in Europe in late 1998 - 80,000 too many.'
Under the outgoing system, dealers specify their needs two months in advance and then order the cars one month ahead.
The first effect of the new system will be the elimination of random delivery times and new transport schedules. Renault expects to double shipments by sea between Spain and France and between France and the United Kingdom.
The system will even have an effect on vehicle design, company planners think.
'Renault is taking the goals of Projet Nouvelle Distribution into account in the design of its vehicles,' a company statement said. 'An advance in the standardization of components throughout the product line, reducing industrial diversity, will lead to an increase in the flexibility and responsiveness of the factories of Renault and its suppliers.'
Stephane Farhi contributed to this report