Renault is preparing for a wide-reaching overhaul and model blitz – and it’s pinning its revival hopes on two new electric SUVs and a renewed focus on C-segment models.
The French brand’s new partnership arrangement with Nissan, announced earlier this year, will lead to a more extensive sharing of platform, technology and production resources to boost efficiencies.
It will also result in Renault taking the strategic lead in Europe under new boss Luca de Meo, who has begun overhauling the brand’s product roadmap despite only starting his role in July. His aim will be to turn around a firm that recorded a £6.5 billion loss in the first half of 2020.
The fruits of these shared resources have already produced the CMF-EV platform, which made its debut on the newly unveiled Nissan Ariya electric large SUV. That platform will also provide the basis for further Renault and Nissan electric SUVs in the coming years.
Renault will spawn two models off the CMF-EV platform initially, with the first being a high-riding production adaptation of the Morphoz concept revealed in spring this year.
Although it’s tipped to be similar in length and width to the current Renault Kadjar, it will sit lower to the ground than that car, as the concept previously indicated. This is because of the greater need for aerodynamic efficiency as Renault pushes for the maximum possible EV range to ensure that the model can cover a higher percentage of customers’ car usage in Europe.
“We identified there was room below the Zoe but even more expectation above the Zoe,” said Renault’s electric vehicles boss, Gilles Normand. “People are realising that EVs are safe and enjoyable and can be taken on much longer trips than [early] EVs.”
Normand cites a target range of up to 342 miles for such a model. Whether that’s achievable remains to be seen. The Ariya’s longest quoted range (for the 87kWh front-wheel-drive model) is 310 miles, and a similar-sized Renault would be unlikely to improve on that significantly.
It remains to be seen if this school of thought will be transferred with de Meo (along with former Seat design boss Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos, who has followed the CEO) to Renault.
Autocar understands a plan was devised under previous management to turn Alpine into an all-electric performance halo brand. That would allow the wider Renault Group to showcase sporting aspects of electrification and compete with premium rivals.
With the decision resting on de Meo’s shoulders, some parallels can be drawn between such an idea and the formation of Cupra as a standalone brand while he was CEO of Seat. Cupra is designed to offer “premium performance” with a strong focus on electrification – and SUVs.
That thinking could be brought to Alpine to create a high-riding, sporting EV, which was already strongly hinted at during the brand’s rebirth in 2016.
Whether management can translate Alpine’s core values of driver appeal and, crucially, light weight to a battery-powered crossover model remains to be seen.