Alaskan ute’s an icebreaker
RENAULT is aiming to break the ice with its coming rival for the Toyota HiLux, the Alaskan ute — and the brand’s local arm is chomping at the bit to get it into Australian showrooms.
Revealing a near production-ready Alaskan concept in advance of the Frankfurt motor show, the French company says the showroom version will spearhead its push to become a bigger player in commercial vehicles around the world.
Europe’s top-selling light commercial brand for the past 17 years is keen to increasing its share of the burgeoning ute segment.
Renault is acutely aware of its potential in ute-loving Australia. Imports have yet to get the green light but local chief Justin Hocevar describes the new truck as “an absolute must-have”.
“The production Alaskan would represent a seismic shift for us, and reinforce our position as a generalist brand, with vehicles across most major passenger and light commercial segments,” he says.
There is potential for the ute to be Renault’s next top-seller in Australia. The Clio hatch takes the honours with 1861 sales to the end of August — in the ute segment, the leading HiLux exceeds this figure each month.
The local arm has appointed of several commercialspecialist Renault Pro+ dealers around the country.
A product of the RenaultNissan Alliance, the Alaskan is heavily based on the recent NP300 Nissan Navara ute, with the Renault version distinguished by unique panels and lights.
At Renault’s Technocentre near Paris, light commercial vehicle design boss Louis Morasse confirms that the Alaskan’s styling is 95 per cent production-ready.
Oversized 21-inch wheels, stylised head and tail-lights and other details are intended to boost its show cred in Frankfurt.
Renault says the production version of the Alaskan will be built alongside Nissans in factories around the world.
Reflecting the changing ute buyer profile, Renault has teamed with Swedish camera brand Hasselblad to emphasise the Alaskan’s suitability for business, leisure and everyday use.
The concept has Hasselbladflavoured storage in the tray and even cameras in the doormirror housing “to permit the filming of passing landscapes”. This last detail hints that the production model could score 360-degree parking cameras, lacking in the Navara but available on most Nissan passenger cars.
Renault promises a broad array of body types and powertrains, suggesting versions of the Navara’s single, extra and dual cab bodies. It says showroom models will match the concept’s dimensions but the central tailpipe will make way for a more towbarfriendly offset item.
Powering the concept is the 2.3-litre twin-turbo diesel from high-spec versions of the Navara, which claims classtopping fuel economy and low emissions.
Production versions are due in the first half of next year.
The Navara is also set to spawn a Mercedes-Benz ute. A shared engineering deal already has delivered the Renault Kangoo-based Mercedes Citan, Mercedes-engined Infinitis and several other Renault and Nissan passenger vehicles.