TOKYO – Renault SA is counting on its 2005 Formula 1 championship to add to its notoriety in Japan, but the auto maker says it plans no special promotion on the subject.

Despite its alliance with Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., Renault is tiny in Japan. It will sell about 3,500 cars here this year, about 10% more than in 2004 and 50% better than in 2003.

The F1 championship will help show Renault makes capable, robust and reliable cars, says Alain Lehmann, managing director-Renault France, but the company won't tie it into advertising because the news is well known through the press.

Renault plans to grow organically in Japan with a few products. The newest arrival will be the Clio, next year, although in Japan it is called the Lutecia, because one of Honda Motor Co. Ltd.'s distribution networks has been called Clio since the 1960s.

The new Kangoo will arrive next year.

A Renault spokeswoman says there is no plan to import the Modus, a small minivan that competes in France with the Peugeot 1007, because the auto maker could not make a business case for the car. Automobiles Peugeot SA expects to sell several thousand 1007s annually in Japan. (See related story: Peugeot Says Japan Key in International Growth Plans)

Renault is French, but the car maker doesn't market itself as a French brand, only an import brand. And although it has the tie-up with Nissan, Japan's No.2 auto company, it never mentions that connection because the two operate as competitive brands in the marketplace, connected only by back-office activity.

Executives don't offer a good explanation for why Renault sells only a fourth as much as Peugeot in Japan, despite the advantage of a partner that knows the market well. The two French brands are head-to-head competitors in most countries, with cars in the same segments and comparable costs.