Dacia Duster SUVEnlarge Photo
Renault bosses have hinted at a possible return to the U.S. market as the French automaker contends with one of the worst sales slumps in its history. Renault’s market share in Western Europe has dropped to just over 7% from the highs of 9.7% in 2005 when current CEO Carlson Ghosn stepped in, and the company’s share prices have fallen almost 55% since then.
While a relaunch in the U.S. would be both expensive and risky, Renault’s chief for its entry-level Dacia brand, Gerard Detourbet, has revealed that new models like the Duster SUV could influence the decision.
Detourbet explained that if the planned launch of the Duster SUV in emerging markets like South America and Eastern Europe is successful, the vehicle could potentially be sold in the U.S. and Canada as well. And if it does come to North America, it will almost certainly be followed by a family of other affordable models.
One of the biggest hurdles is that a U.S. relaunch would require modifying the vehicles to meet tough new car standards, especially for safety. There’s also the issue of establishing a new dealer network, although partnering with an existing network is also an option.
Renault last sold cars in the U.S. in the late 1980s when it owned AMC but withdrew from the market upon selling the brand to Chrysler. It finally closed its Detroit office in 2005.
[Wall Street Journal, sub req’d]