Renault is taking one thing at a time with its new entry car project for India.

“At this stage, it is a preliminary study and we need not push the button yet but, hopefully, we will do so eventually. If things work out, India will be the preferred market to kick off the project,” Mr Carlos Tavares, Chief Operating Officer, told a team of journalists in Chennai recently.

Study under way

The car is expected to be priced around Rs 3 lakh and will be a key growth driver for Renault in a market where affordability is still a key factor. The study is being spearheaded by Mr Gerard Detourbet, who has been in-charge of the entry car strategy at Renault for many years now.

These include products such as the Logan, Sandero and Duster (due to debut in India shortly) which, from Renault's point of view, are very well designed “with no useless content”. In addition, these vehicles pretty much reflect the market conditions they operate in.

“We could possibly study manufacturing cars below the entry car strategy at an even more competitive price and the guy who has the skills to drive that kind of a programme is Gerard Detourbet,” Mr Tavares said.

Renault, he added, is “by far the most successful carmaker” in entry cars in terms of design to cost/manufacturing in low-cost countries. “Gerard's success and ability to make cost-effective products is very much linked to the Indian frugality. This combination of entry car abilities with the frugality of India works very well,” Mr Tavares said.

Frugality of engineers

It is in this context that Renault's engineering centre in Chennai will play an important role in the project. “People here understand how to design things that meet one's needs perfectly instead of a little bit more or less,” he said.

Renault believes the right way forward is to combine the frugality of Indian engineers with the “programme management and talent of Gerard”. Clearly, this is not expected to be a cakewalk exercise but once things are in place, the stage will be set for the car to find its way into other markets such as Brazil, Russia, Indonesia and South Africa.

“We want to go step-by-step and need to evaluate at each point if the project is feasible at the level of costs. We would be eager to start in India which is so value-oriented unlike any other market in the world,” Mr Tavares said.

The project also reinforces Renault's new thinking on an entry-level option for India which first veered towards the ULC (ultra low-cost) car with Bajaj Auto at a starting price point of Rs 1.5 lakh. The inspiration was clearly the Tata Nano but this has since moved upwards closer to the price levels of the Maruti Alto and Hyundai Eon.

(This article was published on May 16, 2012)
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