Europe’s high-margin van segment is about to get even more competitive as Renault shows off their light-commercial vehicle range. The French automaker hopes to build on their already impressive leadership within the highly contested market with a few new faces.
Renault showed a concept for the next-generation Kangoo car-derived van due to launch in 2020 as well as facelifted versions of the Renault Trafic small van, Master medium van, and the EZ-Flex urban delivery concept.
Drive The Future Midterm Plan
Looking to their light-commercial vehicles, Renault wants to help the group achieve the ambitious sales and profit targets set for 2022 as the endpoint of their Drive the Future midterm plan. The projections include a 40% increase in sales although the automaker has already made significant progress by integrating last year’s sales from their new Chinese joint venture with Jinbei Brilliance.
Denis Le Vot, the new head of light-commercial vehicles for the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi alliance, confirmed that including the Jinbei sales figures, Renault Group global light-commercial vehicle volumes were up by 34% in 2018 totaling about 620,000 units. Le Vot started his new position on April 1st after 14 months as chairman for Nissan North America.
At a recent event at Renault’s technical center outside Paris, Thierry Plantegenest, Renault’s light-commercial vehicle sales, and marketing director said it was a huge year for them with total revenue of €10 billion in 2018. While the actual profit margins of Renault vehicles were not divulged, expert analysts believe the margins on vans could be anywhere between 8-13% compared to crossovers or SUVs.
Renault Looking Ahead
This year has been a slightly different challenge as there have been “many headwinds” including unfavourable foreign exchange rates in Argentina, Britain, and Turkey. Not to mention the possible challenges related to the EU’s new Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) which applies to all light commercial vehicles as of September 1st. Fact is, the WLTP affected passenger car sales last year as automakers pulled uncertified models from the market after September.
The first quarter of this year saw the group’s global van sales increasing by 2.7% which helped balance a 7.2% drop in passenger car sales. On a global scale, Renault van sales rose 0.7% while passenger car sales dropped by 13%.
With all that in mind, Renault seems to have everything under control with enough in their arsenal to boost production and sales of light-commercial vehicles. For starters, the new Renault Kangoo will be built at the plant in Maubeuge, France, where the Nissan NV250 sister model will soon join the line-up. And then there is a Mitsubishi branded Trafic van which will be built at Sandouville, France.
In addition to that, seven LCVs will be launched in China by 2022 and that includes a Renault-branded electric van. All Renault vans will have electric versions by 2022 with an electric Trafic joining the Kangoo and Master which are already on the market. Le Vot said that they expect about 10-15% of the next-generation Kangoo sales would be the electric model.
Better Design For Changing Markets
Laurens van den Acker, Renault Group director of corporate design, said that Renault’s largest van, the Master, shows off a “more imposing” front end with a wraparound light bar synonymous with American trucks. It also has a higher hood as a result of the new 2.3-liter diesel engine in accordance with WLTP certification requirements; something that all light-commercial vehicles must comply with by 1 September 2019.
The facelift also includes additional interior storage space and a side-wind stability feature. Renault says that it can automatically correct up to 50% of lateral movement in extreme wind conditions which is a welcome addition for many van drivers.
Renault’s smaller model, the Trafic, has the same front-end but gets a more-efficient 2.0-liter diesel engine. With an eye on the growing market for hotel and airport shuttles, the Renault SpaceClass passenger model will feature rear seats and consoles designed for Mercedes Vito passenger vans.
Considering the future of “last mile” delivery, Renault showed a version of the EZ-Flex concept, a small electric and autonomous urban van with a modest range of 150 km (93 miles). Renault plans to lend about a dozen of these electric vans to municipalities, logistics and delivery companies in a two-year period to gather important data about usage patterns.
According to Le Vot, “The future growth in home deliveries, while access to city centers is restricted because of diesel bans will change the market.”
Whether or not these vans will be available in South Africa remains to be seen but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. If you liked this article and want to know more, keep an eye on our blog and follow us on Facebook for all the latest motoring news from around the world. If you’re in the market for a used Renault Kangoo – check out the available range at Group 1 Cars.