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‘Renault deserves high brand consideration’

| Updated on: Oct 01, 2015
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Jerome Stoll of the global leadership team says the right dealer is key to Kwid’s success

While its pricing has already set the cat among the pigeons, deliveries of the Kwid will follow in a couple of weeks. Renault will be hoping that the sub ₹3-lakh compact will be the first serious challenger to Maruti Suzuki’s dominance in this product category.

As one of the heavyweights in the global leadership structure, Jerome Stoll knows only too well how important the Kwid is to his company’s India plans. The Executive Vice President and Chief Performance Officer had come down from Paris with the entire top brass headed by CEO, Carlos Ghosn, for its Chennai unveiling some months ago.

“When you look at the fact that the entire global team is here, it tells you how important the event is. It is a world premiere and the first time that we are launching such a product in a remote country as compared to Europe,” Stoll said during his visit.

Global outlook

The reference to ‘remote’ has little to do with India’s importance in the Renault roadmap but more with the reality of emerging economies becoming critical growth drivers. Stoll reiterated that it was increasingly becoming mandatory for the Renault group to become more global in its outlook.

“India is one of the most important targeted countries in our plans. We wanted to be here not because of this beautiful car that you saw this morning but because, strategy-wise, the country is critical to Renault,” he said.

Today, the automaker is far more balanced in its sales portfolio than till about 15 years ago when its sales beyond Europe constituted barely ten per cent of total volumes. Two years ago, this jumped considerably to 50 per cent even while Renault had to come to terms with the realities of globalisation. Top markets like Russia and Brazil are not in the best of shape now while Europe is happily out of the woods, at least for now.

India is “also moving up and down” but in the overall scheme of things, Renault is in a much more comfortable situation globally. “It means we have been able to cope with different market movements much better today than a decade earlier,” said Stoll.

As he recalled, at one point in time, companies like Renault had exported European cars to different countries. The other option was to manufacture them elsewhere, albeit with European specifications. “This time, the Kwid has been developed for India with engineering support from France and Japan,” he added.

Long road ahead

While Renault would ideally like to see the new offering take off with a bang and keep the cash registers ringing, Stoll said there was a lot of work ahead. “Of course, we want our products to be profitable. However, in the case of emerging economies, we do not seek immediate profitability but, more importantly, the strategy that we want to implement,” said Stoll.

This is where the core of the entire selling process is so critical to ensure a positive customer experience at the dealership. “When I look at a carmaker in any market and why customers prefer or reject products, the dealer generally comes on top of the matrix in terms of trust, competence and service standards,” said Stoll.

From his point of view, the key enabler to sustain customer confidence in a market like India is to have a strong dealership network. To make this happen, volumes become critical which Renault hopes will be generated with products such as the Kwid, Lodgy and Duster.

“In the process, the dealer improves his expertise and the customer feels happy because of added trust and confidence. This is important to sustain our presence in a new market,” said Stoll.

It is in this context that Renault is leaving no stone unturned to get its retail act in place. By the end of the day, it will have to take on the likes of Maruti and Hyundai which have worked relentlessly to establish a strong sales and service infrastructure in place.

“The right dealer is critical and this perhaps explains why I am putting pressure on the India team to choose the right people and get rid of those who are low performers. Tomorrow, this bad dealer could hit my long-term presence in India,” said Stoll. It is something that the company can ill afford at this stage especially when the Kwid has the potential to be a game changer in the compact segment.

“In the car industry, you have the option of putting a lot of pressure on dealers and seldom worrying about the customer. Eventually, the brand suffers and this is just not worth it,” added Stoll.

According to him, it is important to bring some value to the brand because Renault “deserves to have high consideration” in this department. Putting too many dealers in one location may just “destroy” this value. “I would rather have a balanced presence in the country with higher services that will offer high value growth to the customer,” said Stoll.

Renault had earlier toyed with the idea of an ultra low-cost car with Bajaj Auto. It was during this time that the French automaker realised it could be much more frugal and cost-effective in this endeavour. Even though the partnership did not work , Stoll said the overall experience was helpful in terms of frugality in product development.

Published on January 22, 2018

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