Renault outlines plans for new cars, new profitability and a mini Ferrari

The new boss of Renault, Luca de Meo, has ambitious plans for the French car maker

Luca de Meo outlines plans for the future of Renault
Luca de Meo outlines plans for the future of Renault, from hybrid tech to a reformed Alpine brand

Establishing Renault as an international brand, creating a ‘mini Ferrari’ with the Formula One team and the Alpine marque, and re-establishing a viable presence in the C-segment (Megane) market... It’s going to be a busy time for Luca de Meo, Renault’s new chief executive, who’s been in the job just three months. 

Oh, and on Tuesday afternoon, he plans to take on Toyota and Volkswagen, with the company’s new hybrid system. 

In his first round-table interview with the British press, de Meo outlined what he saw as Renault’s strengths and weaknesses, top of the latter being its poor profitability and share value, a lack of model spread, and international competition from its own Dacia brand. 

The Alpine A110 was launched in 2018 but remains the only model on offer from the brand

After a whistle stop tour of the company, de Meo says he’s been impressed by the enthusiasm and flexibility in the troubled French car maker, which is 15 per cent owned by the French state.

“Not one person I’ve met has wanted to be considered the loser that we are right now.” 

While de Meo is far from the last throw of the dice, this ex-Seat boss and former marketing magus at Audi and the Fiat Group, is expected to make big changes at La Regie.

The company has just announced a series of new electric models based around a new all-electric platform, but de Meo is clear that Renault’s future also involves hybrid, plug-in hybrid. It will also feature liquified petroleum gas (LPG) for Dacia, with hydrogen fuel cells used as range extenders for hybrid commercial vehicles.

An all-new, pure electric Megane will launch next year but de Meo insists that hybrid is a big part of Renault's future

“We are talking to the CEOs of car makers with truck divisions about the possibilities for hydrogen fuel cells,” he says. 

Renault’s new e-tec hybrid system will form a corner stone of its offering in future, however, despite the fact that the company’s Alliance partner, Nissan has bet largely on battery electric power for its passenger cars. 

“Nissan is betting on e power, we are betting on E-Tech [hybrid and plug-in hybrid], which is better suited to European driving cycles,” says de Meo, who reckons that the company’s new Formula One inspired hybrid will soon be on cost terms with Toyota’s hybrid. 

“We estimate that we are very close to the cost of Toyota,” he says. 

While de Meo says he wants to recreate the success of the popular Megane hatchback, perhaps the most dramatic news is his plans to combine the Formula One team with Dieppe-based sports-car maker Alpine (which will also provide the branding for the F1 team) and RenaultSport. He explains that all three have been separate cost centres, which makes them all look bad, but he plans to combine the fortunes of all three.

Renault Formula One car, Eifel Grand Prix 2020

“If we combine them and create a 'mini Ferrari', we create a brand with motorsports, production capability and its own distribution channels. The target would be to get to [financial] break even in a few years,” he says.

While at Fiat, de Meo successfully master minded the re-launch of Abarth, at Audi he oversaw the re-launch of the Audi Sport brand, and at Seat he directed the creation of the Cupra performance brand, so he has a track record in this area.

“Alpine has a future,” he says, “but it’s not going to be easy. Though we’ve got a couple of ingredients and I’ve some experience in this area, I’ve never had a Formula One team, or anything like the Dieppe plant to do high-end work. Hopefully we can cook a delicious and attractive dish out of it.”

This will be de Meo’s toughest-ever assignment; financial, personal, technical, logistical and also political. So given his track record, perhaps it’ll take him until Thursday morning. I wouldn’t bet against him coming up trumps.

 

For new and used buying guides, tips and expert advice, visit our Advice section, or sign up to our newsletter here

To talk all things motoring with the Telegraph Cars team join the Telegraph Motoring Club Facebook group here

A-Z Car Finder