French carmaker Renault, which has announced an investment of Rs 5,300 crore alongside its partner Nissan for India, is considering introducing a new electric car for the Indian market. This vehicle would be based on the Spring Electric architecture that is already available in Europe.
In a conversation with the media, Venkatram Mamillapalle, country CEO and managing director of Renault India, revealed plans to launch some new vehicles in 2024, including the electric version of the Spring for the Indian market. Mamillapalle, however, clarified that this car, closely related to the Renault Kwid hatchback, would be manufactured in its Indian plant, with architecture based on the Spring. He chose not to share further details at this time.
Renault India is actively working on a number of new models, including two internal combustion engine (ICE) products. The company had previously hinted at plans for an A-segment electric car.
Renault and Nissan operate a joint venture plant near Chennai, with an installed capacity of 480,000 units per year. Currently, only 48 per cent of the plant’s capacity is being utilised by both partners. Renault produced around 84,000 vehicles in the financial year 2022-23 and exported about 28,000 units during that year from the plant. Data from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) shows that Renault sold 78,926 units in the domestic market during that period. Mamillapalle acknowledged that this year, those numbers are likely to decline.
The company anticipates domestic sales of around 60,000 to 65,000 vehicles and exports of approximately 20,000 vehicles. Its major export market, South Africa, has seen some slowdown.
Currently, Renault India offers only three models in India – the Kwid (a hatchback), the Triber (a seven-seater multi-utility vehicle), and the Kiger (a five-seater SUV). Its retail sales have dwindled due to a lack of available options for customers. Data from the Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations (FADA) reveals that the company retailed only 3,873 units in July, resulting in a market share of 1.36 per cent in the passenger vehicle segment. This is a decline from the 5,802 units sold in July 2022, when it held a 2.12 per cent share of the market. Monthly sales have nearly halved from the January levels of 7,296 units.
However, the company does not want to dilute its brand positioning by introducing a CNG variant of its Triber, which could then see demand in the taxi segment. “We have taken a conscious call around that. It can significantly boost our numbers immediately. But we are looking at a long-term plan, and we want to position our cars based on their performance and safety features. We don’t want to be in the taxi segment,” Mamillapalle stated.
The company is open to having different powertrains, including plug-in hybrids and ethanol blends. It has an E85 flex fuel option (85 per cent ethanol) ready globally and can bring it to India as soon as the government gives the go-ahead. Mamillapalle also said that Renault would be ready with six airbags across all its models by October 1.
In an attempt to arrest its dwindling sales, it launched an initiative of ‘showroom on wheels’ that would serve as a mobile extension of Renault’s showrooms, and thus potential customers can explore and experience up close. Sales personnel would also be present onboard these mobile showrooms. The company plans to have these showrooms across 625 locations in India.