The light commercial arm of Renault’s UK operation is about to take on more significance in the wake of the large-scale changes to the car side of the business.
The company is revamping its vehicle line-up, and as of 1 February 2012, its smallest model, the Kangoo Compact, is being axed along with nine car lines to give a smaller and more focused range, though the 10 models are claimed by the brand to account for less than 10% of its sales volume.
“This is a fundamental change to the business to build a more sustainable future for Renault in the UK,” says Renault sales director and commercial vehicle boss Darren Payne.
As well as axing the Kangoo Compact, it is reshaping the LCV specifications, with three trim levels of Debut (the entry-price model), the mid-spec Core (which customers will be able to tailor more to their needs than previously) and the top Sport model, (boasting high levels of equipment). TomTom editions with satnav will be deleted, but the system will remain as an option and will be standard on Sport models.
Described as Renault’s “most successful” brand in the UK, Renault Vans accounts for a third of the company’s volume. “Vans are a fundamental part of the new plan, and absolutely critical to us next year is maintaining our van share,” says Payne, speaking just before Christmas. He is looking for growth to come from both local fleet business, with the increase in the number of van and fleet specialist Pro+ dealers, and from an improved share of the light commercial vehicle conversion market. One criteria for becoming a Pro+ dealer is the requirement to have a larger array of commercial vehicles on-site, including conversions, to enable customers to test appropriate models.
Customer service levels are also set to rise, with Renault launching a new 4+ offering that means all vans and cars will be offered with a four-year 100,000-mile warranty, up from the current three-year 100,000-mile level, four years free roadside assistance, four years free servicing and a four year finance package. “This isn’t a programme, it’s a fundamental part of our DNA in the UK,” says Payne, who wants to maintain a market share that has gone from 5.1% in 2009 to  7.5% at the end of last year.
But the focus on the conversion market is important for Payne, who is looking for more growth than the rise in market share from 4% to 6% enjoyed this year.
“We have increased conversions as I said we would do but I’d have liked us to do better,” he states. “I wanted us to be at 8% market share, but I can’t be too picky.”
By 2013, Payne sees Renault’s share of the light commercial vehicle conversion market at 11%, which would put it third in the sector.
The focus will also shift onto Renault’s electric vehicle line-up, including our Van of the Year, the Kangoo ZE.
Along with three passenger car electric vehicles launching during 2012, the Kangoo will form a ZE range that Renault hopes will increase its brand awareness. “ZE will be Renault’s image brand. We want to make the most of the opportunity ZE gives us in the UK to raise the profile of the Renault brand,” declares Payne. “It will make people think differently about Renault.”
He confirms that there won’t be a replacement for Renault’s Kangoo Compact, or any Clio- or Twingo-based light commercial vehicle, meaning that the Kangoo is the entry point to the Renault range. Payne also says the UK won’t be taking any commercial vehicles from its budget Dacia brand, launching with passenger cars in early 2012.
“I can’t see any advantage to our customers of that,” he says.