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Renault unites network in a single retail website

Renault has launched a new consumer-facing internet site uniting its entire UK dealer network of 190 outlets.

The simultaneous launch in the UK, Germany and France of the operation, incorporated in this country within the longstanding site, was made this morning in Paris by Francois Hinfray, Renault`s commercial director.

The site now offers the consumer the chance to research the entire Renault range, including prices and specification details and finance on both new and used cars, be kept up-to-date on the latest product developments and sales offerings from the manufacturer as well as book test drives and services.

But more importantly it is also allows direct contact between the consumer and the retail network, via a dealer locator. Cars can be financed and purchased online, but like Ford and Vauxhall, Renault's predecessors in online retail channels, the French manufacturer insists, this initiative has been designed to be as much a tool for its dealers as a 'virtual' showroom for customers.

Richard Harrison, Renault UK's customer marketing and e-commerce director, said: "Dealers were under no obligation to have their websites united through this single portal. But the fact that all of them have, demonstrates that we both see the value of the internet in increasing sales leads and improving the three-way communication with the customer, dealer and ourselves."

Renault has invested substantially in improving individual dealer groups' websites - where necessary - and for the six months prior to today five dealers have been piloting the scheme.

One of those is Rawlinsons of Bury St Edmunds. Dealer principal Jonathan Rawlinson said: "We've had our own website advertising our new and used stock and other services for some time, but we hadn't been able to do it in the professional way we would've liked. But Renault refreshing attitude and investment in technology and training has demonstrated that we are integral to its internet strategy."

Dealers pay no fee to be part of and are allowed to keep their own separate web operations running.

There are a number of conditions. For example every customer email query must be responded to within 24 hours aned they must also update their website content regularly.

The response time requirement will eventually, Mr Harrison said be reduced to two hours.

Commenting on Renault's e-commerce strategy Mr Hinfray said: "I'm not able to predict the outcome of these sites in the next three or four months.

"E-commerce is a new game and I don't know the rules because they're being defined as we go. Those that aren't in the game will be left behind. Our role is to be one of the major players, but not one of the big gamblers."

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