I remember back in late 2008 when I wondered if the motor trade, as I knew it at least, would ever be the same again. The share prices of the big boys had fallen through the floor. It really felt like the end of the world was nigh and there were probably going to be some major casualties.
Fast forward a couple of years and the situation may not seem quite as bleak but it’s still difficult. There doesn’t appear to be any bargain basement share prices but there is something altogether different happening with the collapse of Saab and the diminishing influence of Renault as a force in the UK motoring industry.
The Saab thing was almost inevitable given the fact that they lost their identity and their customers when acquired by GM. Although they are still fondly remembered and still have a fireclay loyal band of followers, who remember them when they were bullet proof innovative and unbelievably reliable, it is sadly a sign of the times that they will become a footnote in the motoring history pages.
Renault on the other hand is a different story.
That Renault, from February next year, will slash the number of models it sells in the UK and vastly reduce its franchised network will not come as much of a surprise to many in the trade.
I was chatting to someone recently who, like me, remembered the amazing little Renault 5 GT Turbo and how the Clio was seen as a market leader in its sector, and further back how, along with the Toyota Previa, the Espace virtually monopolised the MPV sector in the late 80s and early 90s, but since then what?
The truly appalling Laguna, the mediocre Mégane and the Scenic which lost its way long ago, not to mention the Kangoo (what’s that all about?) and all with really atrocious residuals. It is hardly surprising therefore that Renault are having a rethink having lost 50% of sales in a few short years.
Whilst other manufacturers have invested, brought their brands into the 21st century, and increased their product range and mass market appeal Renault have stood still.
As much as I’m tempted to say au revoir and Vous avez le corps d’un chien et le QI d’une durée de cinq ans! to Mr. Sarcozy after he tried to belittle the UK’s stance over the eurozone, I still find it a little sad that Renault are in this predicament and let’s hope by taking a few steps backwards, prendre leurs medicaments, reducing the size of their dealer network, updating that horrible yellow logo and dusting down Papa and Nicole that they can once again be players in years to come.
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