All-new La­guna show

Re­nault is look­ing for a ma­jor lift in Aus­tralia, writes STU­ART MARTIN

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive -

IT IS easy to for­get Re­nault has been back in Aus­tralian show­rooms for seven years. The French brand has strug­gled but be­lieves its all-new La­guna is the car it needs to start a big prod­uct-led im­prove­ment.

The La­guna costs from $44,490 and with the latest Koleos four­wheel-drive, im­prov­ing Me­gane and come­back Clio later this year, is one of the keys to help Re­nault achieve a sales tar­get of 3500 this year, im­prov­ing slowly to 4500 in 2009.

The new La­guna is lead­ing the com­pany’s re­newed charge and the tur­bod­iesel dCi au­to­matic is first into show­rooms. It will be fol­lowed by six-speed man­ual tur­bod­iesels in Septem­ber, to­gether with auto-only petrol cars.

Still, Re­nault Aus­tralia’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Rudi Koenig ad­mits the growth is a chal­lenge.

‘‘To­day we’re at the start of a new cy­cle,’’ he says. ‘‘Cut­ting through the clut­ter is all about prod­uct and brand po­si­tion in this mar­ket.

‘‘We’re such an open mar­ket. We have 310 mod­els and 60 brands and have In­dia and China on the way.

‘‘I’m speak­ing to you as a CEO for a com­pany that doesn’t have a lot of brand po­si­tion in this mar­ket. We’ve been here seven years. We were half­way through the Re­nault prod­uct cy­cle, so we haven’t had a lot of ex­cit­ing new pas­sen­ger prod­uct to launch with here.’’

The launch of the new La­guna, even­tu­ally fol­lowed by a coupe, in­cluded a visit by the com­pany’s ex­port chief, Christophe di-Perna.

He, too, says things have been tough in Aus­tralia, but prom­ises good things for show­rooms.

‘‘We came out on the prod­uct cy­cle that prob­a­bly was not the best for the Aus­tralian mar­ket,’’ he says.

‘‘Now, with the new La­guna, the Koleos and so on, we’re on a plan that will fit the Aus­tralian mar­ket bet­ter.’’

The over­haul of the La­guna runs deep and in­cludes a 2-litre tur­bod­iesel en­gine shared with al­liance part­ner Nis­san in the X-Trail, pro­duc­ing 110kW and 340Nm. It will only come with Re­nault’s six-speed auto at the start of sales.

The Ex­pres­sion starts at $44,490 and goes on sale along­side the up- spec Priv­i­lege model priced from $50,690.

Once the petrol cars land there will be an Ex­pres­sion man­ual from $41,990 with 125kW and 270Nm, an Ex­pres­sion auto from $42,490, and the Priv­i­lege will top the hatch petrol range from $48,690.

The wagon mod­els— also here in Septem­ber — start with the Ex­pres­sion petrol auto from $45,490 or diesel auto from $47,490. The Dy­namique 2-litre diesel auto will start from $50,690.The La­guna lays claim to green cre­den­tials with low emis­sions and fru­gal thirst from its diesels. The orig­i­nal model— which had sta­bil­ity con­trol as stan­dard two years ago — was also the first car to re­ceive a five-star NCAP crash test rat­ing.

Lead­ing the charge: the Re­nault La­guna dCi tur­bod­iesel au­to­matic is first into show­rooms, fol­lowed by six-speed man­ual tur­bod­iesels in Septem­ber.

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