Renault South Africa is aiming to increase its sales to 11 000 a year on the strength of a host of new models planned for the year, including the Mégane II.

Renault South Africa is aiming to increase its sales to 11 000 a year on the strength of a host of new models planned for the year.

The manufacturer sold 8 600 vehicles in 2002, after sales of 300 units in its return to the country in 1996.

The company launched two diesel versions of the Scenic and Laguna this week and will be bringing the attention-grabbing Vel Satis, at about R450 000, in March, the much anticipated Mégane II hatchback in four engine derivatives in May, including two diesel engines, as well as a diesel 1,5 Clio before the middle of the year.

“The Vel Satis is aimed at a small market of consumers who want something different. We are not aiming for huge sales,” said Manny de Canha, managing director of Renault South Africa.

Renault will also bring in the saloon version of the Mégane II in the second half of the year and add a diesel derivative to its Kangoo range.

De Canha said Renault currently had a market share of 2,4 per cent, which was where it was when it pulled out of the country in 1985. It has 14 owned and 33 independent dealers. It plans to increase its market position by one to two per cent.

The increase in sales is part of the company’s worldwide bid to increase sales to four million by 2010. Renault sold 2 403 975 vehicles worldwide in 2002, which included sales of its Dacia and Samsung brands. Of this figure, 69 000 units were sold in Africa and the Middle East. The French company does not sell its vehicles in North America, where its sister company Nissan sells vehicles. But Renault plans to break into the North American market by 2010.

Diesel vehicles will play an important role in its growth, with over half the engines made by Renault being diesel. “By 2002, over 47 per cent of the cars on European roads were diesel-powered compared with just 23,4 per cent in 1997, while 60 per cent of the cars in France were diesel-powered last year,” said Jean-Jacques Delaruwiere, who heads media communications for Renault’s International Operations.

“Diesels are on the increase in the United States, but market share remains low. This is due to less strict pollution-control regulations, less emphasis on fuel consumption as car purchase criteria and mediocre quality of diesel fuel,” he said.

Diesel sales in the US in 1997 amounted to 1,56 per cent, and this increased to 2,6 per cent in 2002.

De Canha said in South Africa diesel vehicle sales increased to 9,5 per cent in 2002. He predicts that diesel sales will make up 13 per cent of the SA market in 2003.