Electric Renaults could be too small for Australia
Renault Australia wants to bring electric SUVs into the line-up as it believes small cars might be too hard to sell.
Despite models such as the Toyota Corolla and Hyundai i30 leading passenger car sales in Australia, general manager of Renault Australia, Andrew Moore says that the French marque needs bigger cars - and preferably electrified ones.
Peering into the crystal ball, Moore said that there would soon come a point when the price of a fully-electric car would not be out of reach for the average customer and alternative energy vehicles would flourish - much unlike the recent release of elite electric SUVs from premium European brands.
“The way it is now, the leading electric vehicles are coming from premium brands and they are too expensive to make up any meaningful sales,” Moore said.
“But when the price for EV versions of popular cars begins to drop under $40,000 we’re going to see a change in buyer behaviour and it will begin to take over.
“I think eventually the Australian market will move to full EV before we get too embedded in plugin and hybrid. Obviously hybrid hasn’t been that successful but I think the EV market, when the right product lands, will jump quickly in Australia.
“I think it will go from petrol to EV being the main [type of car sold].”
Renault is attempting to make that stride by offering Australia's current most affordable battery-electric vehicle, the Zoe, priced at $47,490 plus on-road costs and which has recently picked up in sales.
“Zoe is going quite well we’ve now got a national dealer network of EV experts and we’ve more than doubled sales of Zoe since we’ve had that.
“So, EV is definitely lifting and I see it in the future for Renault given they are at the forefront of that technology.”
However, the next step is unlikely to be securing the Clio hybrid or K-ZE compact EV SUV announced at the Paris motor show this month as they might not succeed. Moore says the cars are too small for Australians and instead we’re likely to see the Captur plug-in hybrid arrive first.
“We’re having a look at it [K-ZE]. Probably the hesitation for me is that it is quite small and I think it's challenging to sell small cars in this market.
“So my big push is for a bigger electric SUV vehicle.
“Would I start it with that [K-ZE] small SUV? Maybe. We’re still discussing that but I wouldn’t lock it in for Australia simply because of the size - we want something the next size up. Probably Captur is the one we’d look at most.
“You’ve probably heard me talk about more of an SUV lineup for Renault because that's obviously where the market is in Australia. Looking at any new model like that I’d be leaning towards the SUV variant, so Captur is the one of interest to us."
And there could be room to negotiate for an electrified Koleos, following remarks from Renault director Vincent Tourette who said that because of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, building a BEV or PHEV mid-size SUV is something they “have in the bank between us,” if demand is high enough. For now, Renault Australia is planning to have at least two mainstream electric vehicles with five years.
"I think EV could, in terms of sales, be ten per cent of the market by maybe 2023-2024. Possibly [Renault's lineup will reflect that]. You could do that with one or two of the right models."
Alex Rae is Drive’s Melbourne based reporter with over 10 years’ experience in the automotive industry as a photographer and journalist. Having studied both engineering and the arts, Alex understands what makes things tick while appreciating that sometimes it’s all about form over matter…