Special Coverage

Geneva
Auto Show

GENEVA – Renault SA presents a surprise Megane coupe concept at the auto show here that gives hints of the new Megane family slated to make an even bigger splash at the Paris show in October.

Renault says the design, like that of the Laguna coupe concept unveiled last fall at Frankfurt, is a guide to a more fluid, sportier styling.

The concept has a new approach to gull-wing doors that is unlikely ever to be produced. Windows and door rise separately.

Renault also introduces three production models, including its first cross/utility vehicle, the Koleos. It was engineered by partner Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. in Japan and is built in South Korea by Renault Samsung Motors Inc. Its platform also underpins the Nissan Rogue, X-Trail and Qashqai.

Sharing the stand are the Twingo RS, a “pocket rocket” whose 1.6L engine makes 133 hp, and the Laguna GT, a 4-door Laguna with 4-wheel steering that Renault promises “will renew the pleasure of driving” and offer “new sensations.”

The 4-wheel steering system, which turns the rear wheels slightly during maneuvers to ease handling, also will be on the Laguna coupe to be launched in autumn.

Renault is in the middle of its Contract 2009 promise to double the number of introductions it has made in the past, but the product plan for beyond 2009 already is well under way.

Renault will design its own second CUV, based on the Nissan Murano. The Megane platform will host the next Espace minivan, presumably downsized to help it meet a carbon-dioxide target of 160 g/km.

Renault also is developing three electric cars: a Kangoo commercial vehicle to be sold to the French post office, a version of the Megane to be marketed in Israel in volumes of 10,000 or more in 2011 and a ground-up electric car to be distributed worldwide in 2012.

In addition, the auto maker has signed the final papers to take control of OAO AvtoVaz in Russia, which will add more vehicles to the product plan. Renault expects Russia to become its biggest market.

Marketing Director Patrick Blain says Renault is well on its way to meeting Contract 2009 targets for quality, growth and profitability. Its internal quality measures show the Laguna III is 60% better than the Clio III, which was 40% better than the Modus. The Modus was 80% better than the Laguna II.

Profitability was 3.3% in 2007, surpassing the 3% goal. Despite the difficult market conditions, Blain expects Renault to achieve a 4.5% operating profit this year and hit 6% in 2009.

Renault-brand sales were up only 0.9% last year, but Dacia sales rose 17.2%. Renault Samsung sales were off 1.5%, with its new CUV arriving late in the year.