Renault’s electrified future takes shape
How to bounce back from a €7.3bn loss. New boss outlines his plan for ‘loser’ Renault to get fit fast with dramatically-styled EVs and fresh impetus for Alpine. By Jake Groves.
‘It’s not a secret that the company is in bad shape,’ says Luca de Meo, four months into his new job as CEO of Groupe Renault. A nice line in understatement, following Renault’s record €7.3bn loss in the first half of 2020.
‘No one here wants to be seen as the loser we’re being seen as right now. We’ve put together a plan we’ll initiate in 2021 that I think changes the company’s approach.’ Straight talk from the former Seat boss and VW and Fiat marketing guru, who started his career with Renault more than 25 years ago.
BETTING BIG ON ELECTRIC
The revival plan starts with an EV previewed by the Megane eVision concept (below), using a shortened version of the Nissan Ariya’s CMF-EV platform. De Meo claims the new car ‘breaks the rules of size, use and design’ by combining hatchback, SUV and coupe design cues, and offering Megane space in a 4.2m-long car.
The concept has a 60kWh battery pack under the floor and a single 215bhp e-motor driving the front wheels, good for a range of around 280 miles, which is competitive with VW’s ID.3. The larger Morphoz concept, which also uses the CMF-EV platform and has a similar look, points to a rival for the ID.4 crossover from 2022. Renault’s electric plans include a big commitment to emerging vehicle-to-grid charging, with electricity passing to and from (parked) cars depending on your needs and the grid’s.
‘We need to go back to conquer the C-segment, with crossovers and SUVs – if you compare our position to one of our closest competitors, PSA with 308, 3008, 5008 – they did a good job, which we didn’t in the last five or six years. When I started, I was confronted with an array of models: I probably killed seven or eight then restarted five or six immediately,’ says de Meo.
DOUBLING DOWN ON THE JAPANESE
The new boss insists he’s committed to Renault’s alliance with Nissan and Mitsubishi, though Japanese grievances over Renault having a controlling stake – despite historically being the junior partner in sales and profits – haven’t gone away. ‘I believe the Alliance is an asset for the three of us. We are working to get out of the politics. Sharing of components, platforms, deciding on using the same battery for the cars… it’s not very romantic but it’s pragmatic. What we have to attack are the synergies at an engineering level. Talk less about politics and get to the real stuff. We own 43 per cent of the company, that’s the reality – so of course we have a strong interest in the fact that Nissan and Mitsubishi perform.’
Alpine is a challenge, with a ‘half-empty’ plant in Dieppe and a sports car that had ‘a very strong start’ but has failed to maintain momentum. De Meo is far from giving up, though. ‘We have some strong ingredients to cook a delicious dish.’ Renaming Renault F1 as Alpine and handing divisional control to team principal Cyril Abiteboul with a target to break even ‘in three to four years’ is a good start, the boss reckons. ‘I believe the A110 has a future,’ he continues – perhaps by adopting Porsche’s cycle of multiple 911 versions. ‘Or turn it one day into an electric version.’ De Meo is likely to give the go-ahead to the return of Alpine versions of Renaults. ‘But I’m not going do that to a Kangoo or Espace…’
‘The Alliance is an asset for the three of us. We have to talk less about politics and get to the real stuff’ Luca de Meo
Megane eVision looks ready to take on VW ID.3; Morphoz (right) could rival ID.4. De Meo with Megane eVision Alpine: the only way is up.