Sylvain Bilaine, Managing Director, Renault India has an informal chat with Sourya Biswas about Renault's debut into the Indian car market, how it has been thus far, and about Renault's plans for the future.
Out of two European manufacturers, Volkswagen started with the Rs20 lakh plus Passat, while you (Renault) started with the people's car Logan. How has been the experience?
It's been very good. The Logan has been launched in last May and we have sold more than 18,000 cars in eight months. Its position is at top in its segment, the mid-sized segment, so we are quite proud of the achievement. This car got a couple of awards and prizes, and the one which I am most proud of is the initial quality survey from JD Power where we ranked the first car in terms of quality, and that's what the Logan is about – it's the quality of a European technology, European brand, made in India at an affordable cost that Indian customers can afford.
Everyone agrees that the Logan is a value-for-money car. However, there has been some criticism regarding the looks, especially the rear side, as well as the positioning of the wiper, which some feel is a cost-cutting exercise. Would you like to comment on that?
We have heard of some of our customers having some second thoughts about these issues that you mention, but globally the word-of-mouth is very strong….every customer that runs a Logan is very proud of the car he drives….and I have met with customers driving 30,000 kilometres, and they are very, very happy with the car. We of course learn from the market, and we will make some improvement in the future.
Renault has said that this is a brand-building exercise at the Auto Expo. So doesn't Renault have plans for launching any other cars in the Indian market in the near future?
We don't have plans in the near future, if you call near future this coming year, but we have ideas of what we will launch….we have started manufacturing plants….building this plant in Chennai will take about two years, and then we can bring in the products that we want, because at this moment the Nasik plant capacity is full.
We have heard that Renault is collaborating with Bajaj on the $3000 car. Would you like to say something on that?
Yes, we have started from last July working-groups, with Bajaj and with our ally Nissan, and at this moment we have not finished the study yet….it will take another month or so before we can finally say whether we are capable of developing this breakthrough vehicle, but I am confident that we will get a positive answer from our engineers.
What are you trying to showcase through the Laguna at the Auto Expo?
We have a very interesting car….this car has a 1.5 DCI engine, which is similar to the Logan, yet it's a D-segment car, luxury, fully-loaded….it has a six-speed manual transmission and yet the emission of this car is 140 gm of CO2, which is incredible for the weight and luxury that you get from that car. Similarly, on the Twingle, we have a 100 HP petrol engine, which is a turbo engine, and it emits only 130 gm of CO2. So what we want to give today is that we have the knowledge to build the most fuel-efficient, least-polluting cars and bring them to India when needed.
You are also showcasing a MUV. Can you please tell us something about that?
We are presenting the Steppe, which is a seven-seater car…its based on the Logan platform, and it has been designed by our Indian team….so we would like to see the reaction of our customers….whether they would like this car, then we could think of manufacturing this car in India pretty fast.
And last but not the least; we would definitely like to ask you something about your F1 car. Is that the same car we see on television?
Yes, this is the real car…it is the car that has finished the season. We have been world champion in 2005 and 2006….we are coming with new pilots Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet Jr…. we will have a very strong team this year and hopefully we will be in the top podium position.
Ok, you call them pilots, not drivers?
They are pilots.
Is it because this vehicle seems to fly and not ride the roads?
(Also see: domain-b's exclusive video interview with Sylvain Bilaine)