Renault launches Laguna II with a level of equipment likely to stun the opposition, including Ford with the newly-launched Mondeo and even up-market rivals like Audi and its A4.
Pierre-Alain de Smedt, executive vice president, said Renault had been obsessed by wanting to give customers high added value while remaining cost competitive.
Renault had managed to build in added value by cutting assembly time at the Sandouville plant in France by 25% compared to Laguna 1.
“We can now compete with the best in Europe in terms of efficiency,” Mr de Smedt said. “We are looking to take out more cost in the future. The target is another 20% reduction in assembly time over the next three years.”
Laguna II shares its platform with Vel Satis, the Safrane replacement due next year, and an all-new Espace, due in 2002.
Georges Douin, executive vice president international operations, said that the challenge was to prove Renault could be competitive in all sectors, not just small and medium cars “where we have proved ourselves already”.
Launch of the Avantime, which will be built by Matra, has been put back by more than six months to mid-2001 because “we set ourselves exceptionally high quality targets and we are expecting Matra to meet these. To get this right we needed a few months more.”
Laguna II goes on sale in the UK in February with a choice of two body styles – 5dr hatchback or estate, which Renault is calling a sports tourer.
Fitted to all Laguna IIs – but not to any direct rivals like Mondeo – is emergency brake assist linked to the anti-lock brake system to provide maximum braking in emergencies.
Standard equipment also includes electronic tyre pressure monitoring and a keyless card entry and ignition system. A starter button fires up the engine once the card has been inserted into its facia slot and read.
Fleet managers will be able to use the card to read fuel and oil levels, mileage readings, tyre pressures, distance to next scheduled service and emission control checks.
The information can be downloaded directly to a PC and will also help dealers handle customers more efficiently.
Three petrol engines , 1.6 litre 110 bhp, 1.8 litre 123 bhp and 3.0 litre 210 bhp, will be available from launch and one diesel, the 120 bhp 1.9 litre common rail unit. Two further diesels, a 105 bhp 1.9 litre and 135 bhp 2.2 litre, will be added later in the year.
There will be five trim levels for the hatchback, Authentique, Expression, Dynamique, Privilege and Initiale. The sports tourer will be available from Dynamique upwards.
Prices for Laguna II will be in line with the existing car from £14,100 to £22,600; Mondeo prices range from £14,995 to £21,395.