But they have reason to be optimistic, according to Renault chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn. For one, the new Laguna went on sale last week and Renault is bullish that the car will achieve its goal of being in the top three for quality in the D-sector.
Retailers have a role to play in achieving that quality target, Ghosn says. Renault has been training technicians in the maintenance of Laguna and Ghosn believes customer service is key.
“Fundamentally it is a waste of time if you have great product and consumers don’t have an impression of service that is in line with that product, or is an asset to the product,” Ghosn told a room of retailers, fleets and journalists during a brief visit to the UK.
“Since we launched the E4 programme there has been significant progress in people saying they are totally satisfied with dealers worldwide. We are taking it seriously, our dealers are taking it seriously and we are seeing significant improvement.”
In response to a question about pre-registrations, Ghosn said that Renault is keen not to force cars into the market, an action he calls “short-sightedness.”
“Temporary volume relief is unfortunately part of the reality. It’s one reason why the industry has lost a lot of prestige, wealth and influence,” he said.
“But while we are plagued by this, value will be destroyed and it is short-sightedness about the real problems. If you have to push product you have to ask why – why the product isn’t good enough. The problems could be product, sales, dealers, marketing or logistics.”
Ghosn added: “Before we lecture anyone we have to make sure we are doing it ourselves. “We have been pulling away from artificial deals so we have lost some volume. When you do that you are in a healthier position.
“It’s been a long effort for two years and if we are not finished yet then we are not far from it.”
Although Ghosn conceded it might be “naive” to say that pushing product into the marketplace was not something Renault wanted when dealers had to reach significant targets, he said one reason why Renault had laid out its plans to 2009 was so “the monthly result is not important”.
In response to a question about Renault’s pricing strategy, Ghosn said that the bigger the gap between list and transaction prices, the more the brand is devalued. “We have to find the balance to allow flexibility for the sales tactics to unfold. But our interest is to have a number price that is not far from the transaction price,” he said.