By on December 9, 2009

Too bad Plymouth got to the Duster name first...

Thought, you’d seen the last of Renault in North America? Well, think again and this time, they’re bringing their big guns! The Wall Street Journal [sub] reports that Gerard Detourbet, head of Renault’s entry level division is contemplating selling their low cost cars in South East Asia and North America. “We’re looking at Southeast Asia closely,” he said “We ended up not going there for a variety of reasons. But the idea is that we won’t remain absent from that territory.”

The idea of going to North America will depend of the success of the Dacia Duster, the new low budget SUV (Renault is planning 330k units of annual production). Within Europe and North Africa the Duster will wear the Dacia badge with pride, but outside of those markets, the Duster will wear a Renault badge. This is particularly peculiar, because, like many analysts, I thought Renault would come back to North America via their Japanese partner, Nissan, but it appears I could be wrong. Renault’s future in North America is, according to Monsieur Detourbet, is a low budget car designed for developing markets, with a Renault badge. Bonne Chance!

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22 Comments on “Wild-Ass Rumour Of The Day: Renault Considering Return To The US?...”

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    I remember French cars as being comfortable, reliable and with an endearing quirkiness. The charming 1956 Renault Dauphine was comfortable, quiet, and had a real heater unlike the rival VW 1200. The 1959 Renault Floride/Caravelle competed with the pretty 1955 VW Karmann Ghia.

    The sensational 1955 Citroen DS was light years ahead of its time. Its streamlined body, mechanical systems and chassis contained features absent today’s cars. The delicious Chapron Citroen DS convertible is still available 50-years later. The 1960 Peugeot 404 was superior to the competing Volvo 122, itself a styling clone of the 1955 Imperial. The 1968 Peugeot 504, which is still in production, was a vastly better car than the Volvo 144.

    Bring ’em on!

    • 0 avatar

      I remember Renault 5 LeCars. They had paper mache bodies where if slid into a curb the 3 lug wheels folded underneath, flat to the road; and two people and light camping gear made the rear tires smoke because the suspension was bottomed out.

      Keep ‘em there!

  • avatar

    If they could bring over a nicely equipped Logan sedan for around $8-10,000 and a Duster CUV for $10-12,000 they’d have people standing in line to buy them.

  • avatar

    And why not, Fiat is making a comeback, there is plenty of room for another turd on wheels. “Le Car” anyone?

  • avatar
    Mr Carpenter

    This would leave their partner Nissan in the better position – the more mainstream up-market spot, while Renault would presumably compete against used car, in much the same way that Comecon cars such as the Dacia, FSO, Lada and Skoda used to in Western Europe and the United Kingdom, up until shortly after the Berlin Wall fell. 

    Renault would be the car of choice for folks for whom Kia is “too expensive and upmarket” if they brought in Dacia based cars and badged them as Renaults.

    This is not necessarily a bad thing, per se.  It’s just that even in Canada, with a slightly lower standard of living compared to the US (at the time), the Lada faded away after about 20 years on the market there – most people simpy bought used. 

    So if this is their plan, I give them A for effort, and D for brainpower.  It won’t work, long term. 

    If Renault plan to compete in their natural European niche, then there is no point since they’d directly be competing with Nissan. 

    Interestingly, in the UK, it seems the roles are reversed and Nissan are considered a cheaper brand of small cars only, whereas Renault are more mainstream and have a wider range of choices and models.  At least, that was the case last time I looked.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    Great News! The Dacia Duster is coming to the US!

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    While I always thought Renault would occupy the more-upmarket slot in this country compared with Nissan, remember that’s what Infiniti is for.   Bring a Duster and Logan wagon to the U.S., price them right and I’ll take a look.  $10-$12,000 is the range where my look will become very, very serious.  A Dacia nameplate would be really cool, though. 

  • avatar

    Le Car? I’ll pass.
    But,if you have the means, the R5Turbo is still one of the original hot hatches…

    Ahh the Citroen DS. Or SM. Or…

    Pug ad for the 505 Turbo was a classic.

    Picture of red velvet laden massive 4 post boudoir.
    Announcer: “For those of you who believe this is the only place the French perform…”
    Then the 505 Turbo comes blasting through the picture.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    There’s no reason for Renault to return, unless Nissan ever gets to a point where they can’t build cars fast enough to please everyone.

  • avatar

    Anyone remember the Renault Alliance?     Renault better hope not many do.
    They ruined their reputation last time.  If they try again, they better be sure the quality is there.    I don’t know if it’s smart to enter the low end, especially if they can’t really compete.    Their cars will just seem cheap, and if they don’t hold up, they’ll seem cheap and junky: pretty much what most Americans think when the think of Renault.

  • avatar

    A friend’s mother had one, he called it the Renault Appliance because it was about like driving an old washing machine.

    On the other hand, I’d buy this if it were reliable:

  • avatar

    how will they compete price-wise with a european car? I’m not sure if rumania has the euro yet, but their wages are rising too and all their money somehow will be bound to the euro. this may work for Mercedes or BMW (and they even move production to the US), but a price-sensitive new brand?
    Yes, we need more brands… especially ones with a bad reputation as Renault. Actually introducing Dacia would be better since it doesn’t have the bad reputation as Renault.

  • avatar

    The French Renaults could be successful in America alongside the Dacias. Taking up from where Saab have left off with the “fairly rich but I don’t like to brag about it set”, the Espace Minivan and Laguna in wagon, hatch and coupé formats are fine cars that could have a willing group of buyers.
    If they get the prices right and make sure there are plentiful spare (interchangeable?) parts available to Nissan dealers for servicing and repairs, focus on lowish volumes and highish margins offering cast-iron warranties and service.
    Mind you, knowing Renault, they’ll probably just sell the same old crap in the same old way as always and the dealers will just resent having to support another brand on top of Nissan and Infiniti.

  • avatar

    I’m more interested in Peugeots and Citroëns.  Fiats appear to be junk and Renault’s designs just do not appeal.

  • avatar

    I think it is wild-ass rumor. Renault owns %36 of Nissan which sells cars in US. Theoretically without lifting a finger mother company gets 36 cents on every buck Nissan makes in US. Why bother with new dealer network, logistics of importing and servicing dealers and their customer? The start up costs are tremendous and Renault is not swimming in profits and extra cash. They are trying to survive, like everyone else. It makes more sense to forge towards Chinese, Indian, African markets that will be growing not stagnating.

  • avatar

    Renault is one of the few automakers whose reputation in the US is worse than Fiat – just think Le Car and Alliance.  If they return, it should be under a pseudonym.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    One Renault, circa 1960, had different wheelbases on the right and left sides.

  • avatar
    Kristjan Ambroz

    Yes – that was the Renault 16 one of the forerunners of the modern hatch concept and probably one of the 10 most influential cars of the post WW2 era. Not because of the unequal wheelbase ;)
    I am a bit surprised at the sentiments being expressed here at TTAC – basically for a lot of people time seems to stand still and if the French made unreliable cars in the 70s and early 80s, that must continue being so. It is similar to many European’s attitudes that Japanese cars rust badly and are hard to acquire spares for.
    There are good reasons why the French car industry, in spite of many proclamations of their early demise in the 90s are in fairly ruddy health compared to many competitors. In the mid / late 90s they almost doubled their productivity in 3 years and by 1998 or so surpassed German car manufacturers in that respect. Renault, in particular, managed quite a publicity coup by being the manufacturer with the best safety record for its lineup in new cars in Europe – and that includes all the premium and Swedish players, too – which so pride themselves on those aspects. There is a lot of sour grapes as to how they managed to trick the system to achieve this but they did.
    Renault over the last 10 years or so came to completely dominate the affordable performance market in Europe and the RS Clios and Meganes are now the (unmatched) benchmarks in the industry.
    Citroen has been transformed from a practically dead brand to a pretty significant player in Europe, too, with cars, that are perhaps not particularly fun to drive but are in many ways the equivalent of a Toyota in that they are the perfect appliance – something the majority of the market is looking for.
    Dacia is perhaps one of the most significant successes in the recent automotive history.
    All in all, the preconceptions from 20-30 years ago are a bit naff – or would the readers harping about the unreliability of the R5 in the 80s also refuse to get into any Toyota or Honda, because one can hear them rust away and because they are so tiny compared to the cars from the big 3 and their first attempts to enter the US market were plagued by horrible unreliability?

  • avatar

    Hear, hear. Renault have come a long way since the 80s. If they are sensible and play to their strengths of comfort, space and safety then they could do alright.
    The unequal wheelbase was a common feature on many French front-wheel drive cars with torsion-beam rear suspension. On the Renault 4, Citroen Visa etc. the difference was only about 1 1/2 inches so probably not terribly significant in terms of turning effort. However, it did have the effect of giving the cars 4-wheel independent suspension, something that isn’t even standard on all cars some 50 years later.

  • avatar

    Here’s the real reason Renault turned thumbs down on the Penske deal to supply cars for Saturn. First Dacia as bargain basement Renaults, then Samsungs at a higher price sold as Renaults. The new Samsungs are based on Renaults now, rather than older Nissans.

    The Dacia warranted a story  in the Wall Street Journal about it’s cars when they entered the Canadian market in the 80s. They were nightmares apparently and owners would leave keys in them with the windows down over night and no one would steal them they were so bad.

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t mind seeing Renault re-enter the American marketplace, but I suspect it wouldn’t be overly successful here.  Many fond memories of old Renaults from growing up in Germany.  Our beloved landlord’s son in Karlsruhe had an old R4 that he carted me around in.  Even at the young age that I was, I loved the horizontal shiftlever!  Later, some good friends of ours from the British Scouts up in Gutersloh owned a R16 (with the properly configured right-hand steering wheel!)…I remember how comfortable that old car was, even well into the mid 80s.  Drove a new Laguna about two years ago, and actually really liked the way it rode and looked.  But hey, what do I know…I still like Opel, too!

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