TOKYO -- Renault may sell its Korean-made H45 SUV in Japan, says Patrick Debrot, the French carmaker's vice president for Asia-Pacific.
If so, the SUV would become one of the rare cases in which foreign carmakers have attempted to undercut Japanese cars in Japan on price.
The H45, which will be made by Renault Samsung, is to debut in late 2007. Half of the SUV's output is destined for sale in Europe and elsewhere. Those SUVs will be sold as Renault models.
Until now, the Japanese market has rarely seen imported cars priced below models made in Japan. Hyundai Motor has attempted to compete on price in Japan, but its unit sales here last year were just 2,524, up 4 percent.
The H45 already represents a shift in strategy for Renault Samsung. Until now, the Korean carmaker has focused on the domestic market, with only modest exports.
But in November, Renault Chairman Louis Schweitzer unveiled a plan to boost Renault Samsung's sales to 500,000 by 2010, with half of those sales coming outside of Korea.
Most of the exports are expected to go to Europe. But not all. "I'm interested in it for Asia-Pacific, and I'm not excluding my Japanese friends," says Debrot.
Renault Samsung's global unit sales in 2004 were 85,098, down 24 percent. All but 2,878 were sold in Korea. Renault owns 70 percent of Renault Samsung.
In 2004, Renault sold 3,253 cars in Japan, up 43 percent. It aims for sales of 4,000 in 2005.