GENEVA —SA's strategy to rebuild its brand worldwide with a move upscale gained credence with the recent presentation of the Vel Satis, a tall station wagon with a wraparound rear windshield.
The 4-door, 5-passenger front-drive car will appeal to non-conformists, saysChairman Louis Schweitzer, but it also will appeal to some traditional buyers of German luxury marques.
PartnerMotor Co. Ltd. will provide the 235-hp 3L DOHC V-6 engine — from its highly regarded “VQ” family — and Motors Ltd. will be the source of a 180-hp 3L V-6 turbodiesel, which comprises the engine selection at launch. A Renault-designed 4-cyl. engine will be added, but a V-8 won't fit.
The Vel Satis shares a platform with the new Laguna, which already is on sale in the upper-medium segment, the next Espace minivan and the Avantime. All of the vehicles on the P5 platform, except the Avantime, will be built in Renault's redone factory in Sandouville, France.
Further food for thought: Renault-controlledmay use the platform for its next Maxima.
Schweitzer says the Vel Satis will match the quality of vehicles fromAG, DaimlerChrysler AG's Mercedes-Benz and Audi AG, but would offer something different, with a “French touch.”
The vehicle is in line with a recent trend that sees traditional three-column sedans disappearing from the marketplace by several percentage points per year. Luxury buyers are moving toward wagons, coupes, sport/utilities and other niche vehicles, Mr. Schweitzer says.
Volume goals for the Vel Satis are 3% of the luxury market, or around 50,000 units next year, when the car is scheduled to go on sale. Pricing has not been announced, but is likely to start at more than $30,000.
Renault says the car would appeal to buyers around the world, even in the U.S. and Canada.
However, Mr. Schweitzer says, “I don't see us going back to North America soon. Our return to North America must be preceded by worldwide credibility of the Renault brand. We will be back one day, but within the next few years this is not the case.”