Renault is planning almost to double production of diesel cars next year. Executive vice president Pierre-Alain de Smedt said this year's total of 850,000 would rise to 1.4m in 2001.
The dramatic increase follows diesel orders across Europe growing from less than 15% of the range to almost 50%, mostly for Clio. “It had taken everyone by surprise,” he said.
He said a new small commonrail diesel engine, developed with Delphi Automotive Systems, would be launched in mid-2001. It is believed to be a 1.5-litre unit.
Mr de Smedt said that he had just signed a contract with Bosch which supplies key components for the diesel engines, that would allow the increase in production. It would mean diesels accounted for almost 50% of total Renault production.
He thought the reason for increased demand for diesel power was a combination of better performance and economy. Big increases in demand had come from Spain, France and Germany where diesels accounted for 30% of Renault's sales, up from between 10-15%.
Mr de Smedt said Renault/Nissan planned, by 2005, to have fuel cell cars, probably based on monospace designs like Scenic and Tino.
These would be produced in small volumes, he said, with larger volumes not starting until the second phase of fuel cell development in about 2010. “The volumes will depend on cost,” he said. “ We always had doubts about electric cars but fuel cells have a real future.”