Marques of Distinction - Renault

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France’s most prolific motor car manufacturer was founded in 1899 and within a decade had captured a 20 percent share of its national car market.

 

Renault

Brothers Louis, Marcel and Fernand were partners in the business, but it was Louis who drove its success. Most prolific of Renault’s early products was the twin-cylinder AX – many becoming the taxis that famously carried troops to defend Paris against a 1914 German attack.

Despite Marcel Renault’s death in a 1903 road race, Renault has participated successfully in many forms of motorsport. Within 10 years of establishment, the company was building Grand Prix-winning cars before turning to rallying and sports car racing in collaboration with Alpine and Gordini.

Most memorable of Renault’s rally contenders was the mid-engined 5 Turbo that, in 1977, won the Monte Carlo rally at its first attempt. By the time the ‘5’ was rendered redundant by all-wheel drive rivals, its 1.4-litre engine was developing almost 300kW.

Renault’s 1977 return to Grand Prix events was inauspicious, but in 1979 the team produced Formula One’s first-ever victory by a turbocharged car. In conjunction with Williams and Benetton it won World Drivers’ Championships and, in 2005-06, recorded consecutive Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles.

Megane

Before 1966, Renault had concentrated on rear-wheel drive vehicles – many of them rear-engined as well. Then came the front-wheel drive 16 that won global acclaim and numerous awards for its space efficiency and robust design. Models that followed the 16 formula included a technically-advanced 25 model introduced in 1985 that alerted the driver to problems via a synthesised voice.

Despite the popularity of its mid-1980s Fuego coupe and an attempted revival by New Zealand’s Renault distributor, the brand disappeared from Australia in 1992. Association with Volvo then Nissan plus a flurry of new models eventually brought a resurgence. By 2007, Renault sales in Australia had climbed to 3000 cars.

Among the most successful of recent Renaults are its passenger vans. The Espace that appeared in 1981 was supplemented by the Trafic which is built worldwide under brand-names including Opel, Nissan and the Indian-owned Tata.

Since 1999, Renault has maintained an alliance with Nissan and combined sales place the consortium fourth in global vehicle sales. Both companies are cooperating in development of electrically-powered vehicles that will be built in Europe and Japan. Several models are planned, using ion batteries that can be exchanged rather than having to be recharged overnight by the vehicle owner.

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