Renault’s apparently ever-changing strategy is the gift that keeps on giving – at least to journalists.
Its move away from volumes was covered in AM in 2009, then its subsequent re-entry into the fleet market in 2010, and then its kind-of retreat in 2011.
There appear to be three prongs to the 2012 strategy: cut out the dead wood (Modus, Espace, Laguna, Wind and Kangoo car), move Renault upmarket and bring in Dacia below Renault.
So how much sense does it make?
Cutting out the dead wood is to be applauded in principle: far too many manufacturers insist UK importers try and sell cars we are not interested in (remember the Hyundai XG30?).
However, five entire model ranges is a lot of dead wood
The Modus was always a bit of a flop internationally – people could see no advantage in the basic Modus over the Clio and, by the time the Grand Modus arrived, it was too late.
The Espace was devoured by the Ford Galaxy/S-Max which was better on almost every level.
The Laguna is a nightmare: you have to go back to 1970s horrors like the Austin Allegro to find a major European car that missed its sales targets by so much.
The Kangoo car is getting a bit old now and is massively outsold by the Citroën Berlingo, but the Wind is a worry.
This was meant to be exactly the sort of brand-builder that would take Renault upmarket, but Brits cannot see the point.
Sales for 2011 were around 1,600 units.
The second part of the strategy is going to be tricky. Renault says it wants to move upmarket, but a company does not decide its positioning – the market does.
The market does not view Renault as upmarket: compared to 10 years ago it has fallen behind Ford and the gap between Renault and Skoda is far smaller than it was.
A mainstream manufacturer’s brand is as strong as its products: the products take years to change, and then the public perception of the improved products takes many more years.
The third part of the strategy is not merely sensible, it is years overdue.
Dacia has been a huge success across Europe and the new Duster 4x4 looks like an excellent product.
Demand for left-hand drive models has supposedly prevented production for the UK, which is a natural home for a value brand making good cars: just look at Kia.
The only danger for Renault is that Dacia could come to overshadow its parent: if I was a sales person, I would be a lot more energised by a Duster than a Megane.