Right place, right time
Often successful careers are partly ability, partly huge work ethic, and partly being in the right place at the right time. Ken Ramirez, managing director of Renault UK, joined in February last year from Alliance partner Nissan where he was managing director of Nissan Latin America and the Caribbean, and he certainly fulfils those criteria.
Being in the right place at the right time: after years of soul searching, staff, dealer and model cuts, Renault has spent the last 18 months launching distinctive new cars that prove the brand is very much back on form.
Speaking at the launch of its latest impressive offering, the Twingo, Ramirez explained how the rejuvenation has come about.
‘Fleet business has continued to move up and with new Trafic and revised Master our growth and share in LCVs is increasing faster than in cars. Renault’s overall share is up in total 0.9% this year across cars and vans, which makes us the fastest growing brand. In their respective segments, vans are contributing 1.5 points and cars 0.8 points to that figure. Clio and Captur are the big drivers for this, but cars like XMOD and refreshed Megane are helping too.
‘Fleet business is stable. What is happening is that retail is growing so fast that fleet tends to shadow that side of the business and where we used to be 60% fleet, 40% retail, now that has switched round, and this is a position we ought to be at. But effectively fleet volumes haven't gone down, it’s just that the retail has gone up.
We are launching all new products and of course retail tends to pick up quicker as it is a quicker win, so fleet will come on later.
‘We have the phrase internally “daring to imagine”, that Renault is a daring brand and hopefully we are illustrating that with our new product – Clio 4, ZOE, Captur and Twingo. Consumers have always expected it, even if they haven’t always received that. But this is changing.
‘Twingo is the embodiment of what Renault can do: very competitively priced, well equipped and groundbreaking – adding a lot of features, content and services to the customer that you don’t even get in the rest of the lineup. I think this Twingo does capture what the Twingo should be better than the last one did, which we had to compromise a bit with, because it had to service the entry point into the Renault Group, so it was no frills. But today the entry to Renault is Dacia, so we didn’t need to do that with this car.
‘Captur is doing really well, with a 20% segment share and second in its market, and there’s more to come from it as it has only just been launched really. I think its because it’s a very interesting crossover that is practical and dares to do things a little bit differently – the personalisation and the fact interior can be replaced, such as the zippered out seats.
‘When it launched Captur got very high residual value predictions. We haven’t been in the 40s with a car since the first Scenic, and the Captur was up there at 42% or 43%, so clearly the product has something to do with it and that’s something we will continue to see more of. Clio has maintained its position, and we expect to see the same thing for Twingo. So launch by launch we are seeing RV predications going up.’
Ramirez is forthright about ZOE, reckoning that Renault expected it to be selling better. So the firm is doing more communication to increase awareness so it makes sense to customers. The complex and contentious battery leasing scheme, which was intended to make the car accessible to early adopters, may also get a tweak in the near future he says, allowing the batteries to be “bought” which will clarify ownership of the car for fleets.
At the Paris Motor Show this Autumn, a new Espace will be revealed but there are no plans to bring it to the UK, and also it is highly unlikely we will ever see a new Laguna either. Ramirez says the market has changed and that Renault has had to change its offering too.
‘The question is, do you bring something back such as Espace and Laguna? It’s a very different dynamic bringing cars in and you tend to look much further ahead. When you examine the trends in the D segment and see the evolution is moving far more from MPV and saloon to SUV, if I have to justify bringing a vehicle in that segment, there’s really only one choice.’
He adds: ‘There was a time when we were broadly shooting everywhere and seeing what happened but we have to be more disciplined now and when you look at it that way, the fastest growing segment is B SUV, for which we now have Captur, second is C SUV and something in that will be on sale next year, and then there’s D SUV after that. Obviously then there is a model to consider, but nothing is decided yet.’
With a raft of new cars in new segments, improving residuals and increasing sales, it seems Ramirez has indeed found himself in the right place, at the right time.