STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Renault has abandoned plans to establish "premier" dealerships for customers of the Avantime, Vel Satis and new Espace.
A pilot scheme was established in the UK where some dealers were given premier status to sell the upmarket vehicles. The dealers provided dedicated sales areas, staff and technicians.
High-end Laguna replacement vehicles were also offered to customers who brought their Avantime, Vel Satis and Espace models in for servicing. Renault usually only offers entry-level Clio superminis as loan vehicles at dealerships.
But with the Avantime being killed off by Renault and sales of the Vel Satis proving to be disappointing, the premier dealership idea has been quietly dropped. The French carmaker originally wanted to extend the strategy across Europe, but it now has no plans to do so.
With the Avantime being phased out, Renault sold fewer than 2,000 units of the model in Europe during the first five months of the year, according to JATO Dynamics. Vel Satis sales during the period were 7,301 units, down marginally on January to May 2002. Espace sales were steady at 22,776 units.
"We are still selling the Avantime and Vel Satis, but in fewer numbers than we hoped for. The cars are now available through all of our dealers," said Phillippe Talou-Derible, managing director of Renault UK.
"We are more than happy with the way Espace continues to sell, however, particularly the Grand Espace," he added.
Talou-Derible said Renault found it difficult to compete with the prestige German brands.
"The biggest issue we have with the Vel Satis is with competitors such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz moving downmarket," he said. "That means our German rivals are not only competing on price but they are also able to offer better residual values as an incentive to fleet buyers."
Talou-Derible added: "We have done a lot of work to drive those residuals up, but we are considered a volume brand and it is difficult to compete with the German luxury-car makers on those terms."