PARIS - Renault has just started production of a three-box version of the Clio supermini at its plant in Bursa, Turkey.
The car, called the Symbol, is due to replace the best-selling Renault 9. Renault has invested $108 million in the program - $27 million for engineering and $81 million for manufacturing equipment.
The Symbol is longer than the Clio hatchback (160 inches instead of 150.8 inches) and has a larger trunk. It is powered by one of two gasoline engines: a 1.4-liter producing 75 hp and, beginning next year, a 1.4-liter, 16-valve powertrain producing 95 hp.
Symbol production should reach 28,000 units next year. Bursa made 26,500 Renault 9s last year. Total production at Bursa should reach 140,000 units in 2000. The plant also builds the R12 wagon, the R19 and the Megane three-box and wagon.
Through August of this year, Renault had sold 40,100 units in Turkey. Of those, 10,800 were R9s. About 20 percent of Symbol production is to be exported to central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
Renault is expected to launch a version of the Clio three-box in Brazil next March. The car will be made alongside the Clio hatchback in Curitiba. It will be equipped with a 1.0-liter engine that Renault plans to produce in a new $120 million engine plant in Curitiba. Production will start in January.
The Clio three-box could be considered a first step toward the $6,000 car that Renault is planning for emerging markets over the next five years or so. This car will be made initially by Romanian carmaker Dacia, now 51 percent controlled by Renault.