TOKYO - Renault SA will resume sales in Australia in May as part of a broad offensive in the Asia Pacific region supported by affiliate Nissan Motor Co.
Renault quit Australia in the mid-1990s because of a consumer boycott sparked by French atomic testing in the South Pacific.
Renault said it aims to sell 3,500 vehicles in Australia this year, rising to a 5 percent share of the Australian market in 2007. That would imply unit sales of some 50,000 a year.
That is part of a broader aim of selling 200,000 vehicles in the Asia Pacific region by 2010, or 5 percent of Renault's worldwide target of 4 million sales by then.
It has a long way to go: Last year, Renault sold only 7,500 vehicles in Japan, Malaysia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Singapore and Tahiti.
Australia and Taiwan will be added this year to the territory of Renault's Asia Pacific Division, which last June moved its headquarters to Tokyo from Singapore.
In Australia, Renault sales will begin with the Clio Sport, Megane Cabriolet, Scenic and Scenic RX4.
The automaker will have 15 dealers to start, mainly drawn from the ranks of Nissan dealers: four in Sydney; three in Melbourne; two in Brisbane; and one each in Canberra, Adelaide, Hobart, Perth, on the Sunshine Coast, and in Geelong.
Other models, including the Laguna II, will be added later this year as other dealers are added.
To support Renault's return to Australia, Nissan has set up a wholly owned unit to distribute Renault vehicles.
Nissan sold 45,278 vehicles in Australia in 2000, for a 5.8 percent share of the market.
Beyond Australia, Renault is planning a return to Indonesia and is studying increasing capacity at its 15-percent-owned affiliate in Malaysia, Inokom. Inokom has the capacity to assemble 20,000 vehicles a year from knockdown kits.
Sales outside Australia are expected to focus on three passenger cars - the Clio, Scenic and Laguna - and three light commercial vehicles, the Kangoo Express, Trafic and Master.
To support its Asia Pacific drive, Renault last year invested $500,000 in a new training center in Singapore, with training sessions in English, Chinese, Malay, Thai and Japanese.