FRANKFURT - The launch of the unconventional Avantime luxury car next year presents a unique challenge to Renault Marketing Director Thierry Dombreval.
Renault launched Europe's first full-sized minivan, first small minivan, and pioneered one-box city cars. Now it is now combining a sporty coupe with a minivan in an attempt to revolutionize the luxury segment.
Dombreval has to create a marketing plan to sell the vehicle to skeptical European buyers. The production version of the Avantime debuted at the Frankfurt auto show.
The Avantime combines the speed and agility of a coupe with the interior space of a minivan. But it is by no means a practical 'people carrier,' offering just four seats.
Dombreval admits Renault was forced by necessity to create a new segment to compete in the executive segment dominated by the likes of Mercedes-Benz and Audi.
'Historically, French manufacturers have not been able to market themselves successfully against German luxury cars,' said Dom-breval. Renault's last effort in this sector was the unsuccessful Safrane.
Dombreval contrasts Renault's strategy with that of PSA/Peugeot-Citroen and the executive car it displayed in Frankfurt. 'The Peugeot 607 follows in the German tradition,' he said. 'The Avantime takes the opposite route and doesn't try to imitate the Germans.'
The Avantime is not targeted at any one customer group, but 'a mosaic of consumers,' said Dombreval. The shared attribute of the many target groups will be that 'the consumers will not be conservative.'
The Avantime may attract Renault Espace owners whose children have left home. 'Consumers are still fond of the monospace concept,' said Dombreval.
Target groups range from 35-year-old nonconformist executives who may have traditionally chosen an Audi or a BMW, to retired executives 'who have a strong passion for enjoyable cars.'
Avantime buyers' last car may have been a Jeep Grand Cherokee, a BMW station wagon or even a traditional coupe.
Advertising plans for the Avantime are being kept secret until closer to the vehicle's European launch in mid-2000.