Auto blogWed, 27 Nov 2013 09:58:00 EST
Carlos Tavares is a man of ambition. As well he should be, because you don't get to the top ranks of a major industrial group without it. But as chief operating officer of Renault, there was only so far he could go in the shadow of his boss Carlos Ghosn. So with an eye toward running a major automaker, Tavares left Renault a couple of months ago, expressing his desire to run an automaker like Ford or GM. Now Tavares has gotten what he wanted, but he won't have to move to Detroit to get it. Instead he's staying right there in France as the new head of PSA Peugeot Citroën.
The move was announced at the French automaker's headquarters in Paris as PSA aims to garner investment from China, prompting current chief executive Philippe Varin to step aside (whether voluntarily or otherwise) and make room for Tavares. Varin will for the time being keep the role he's held since 2009 as Tavares joins the managing board at the start of the year before taking its reins at some point thereafter.
Although PSA and its brands Peugeot and Citroën may not register much on our radar, since they don't participate in the North American market, the French group ranks as one of the largest automakers in the world. Its sales last year placed it as the eighth biggest producer of automobiles in the world (behind Toyota, GM, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Ford, Nissan and Honda) and a couple of positions ahead of Renault. So not only is this a step up for Tavares in terms of where he sits at the table, it's also a bigger table altogether.
Renault may not compete with its arch-rival Citroën at the top of the World Rally Championship, but head out to any lower-level rally and you're bound to see some of its competition-spec machinery entered by privateer teams. Renaultsport offers rally teams the Twingo R2 Evo, Twingo R1 and Megane N4, and is now bolstering the Clio Renaultsport R3 with the new R3T version.
Based on the regrettably watered-down Clio RS Turbo EDC, the rally-spec R3T packs a 1.6-liter turbo four mated to a Sadev six-speed sequentail gearbox. It's also got Sachs shocks, PFC brakes and Cosworth electronics. Set to be unveiled at the Rallye du Var, which forms the final round of the Renaultsport Rally Trophy championship, the Clio R3T is scheduled for approval in the second half of 2014, after which rally teams will be able to enter it in R3-category dirt and tarmac rallies around the world. Feel free to read more in the press release below.
Mitsubishi and Renault-Nissan have just inked an alliance that might, hopefully, reverse the ailing fortunes of the Mitsubishi brand in the US market. The big chunk of news is that Mitsubishi will produce two Renualt-based models for sale in the US market, and that they'll be built at the Renault-Samsung factory in Busan, South Korea.
The plans call for a D-segment sedan to be followed by a C-segment offering. Based on the cars built at the Busan factory, that means Mitsubishi will be getting the SM5 and the SM3, a pair of handsome sedans that are based on Renault-Nissan's D and C platforms, respectively. These same platforms underpin a number of US market Nissans (not to mention a number of cars from Renault), namely the Pathfinder, Maxima, Quest and Murano for the D platform and the last-generation Rogue and Sentra for the C platform.
Besides the sedan production, Nissan and Mitsubishi will be expanding their joint-venture company, NMKV, which produces Kei cars for the Japanese market. A new, all-electric offering will be born from the partnership, likely based on a Kei car platform. The partnership between the three brands will also lead to increased sharing of technology, particularly relating to electric cars.
Even though the commercial vehicle segment here in the US is still dominated by American automakers, Mercedes-Benz continues to be a top automaker for global work vehicles, including its recently introduced Citan. Built as a part of the Daimler-Renault alliance and sharing its design with the Renault Kangoo, the Mercedes-Benz Citan gets some notable upgrades including an optional diesel engine, available custom body conversions and a new stretched, seven-passenger model.
Going on sale next spring, the Citan Crewbus (shown above) adds a third row of seating with two seats in the back that can slide fore or aft to maximize passenger comfort, or they can be removed altogether for more cargo space. Currently, the Citan is only sold in Europe, but that will soon expand to include Asia, Chile and the Middle East. We asked a Mercedes spokesperson if there's a chance we'll ever see the Citan in the US to compete against small commercial vans like the Ford Transit Connect, Nissan NV200 and Chevrolet City Express, and the response was that there are "no plans" to do so.
Scroll down to check out the press release as well as galleries for both the new Crewbus and other variants of the 2014 Citan.
Of all the international auto shows we report from and keep our eye on, Johannesburg's is not among them. And of all the social media sites we monitor for car news, Pinterest isn't usually one of them, either. But those are the venues which Renault chose to unveil the concept you see here.
Called the Détour, it's based on the Dacia Duster - which is sold in some markets, like South Africa, as a Renault. The overhaul is the outcome of a collaboration between Renault's Central European design studio and an oddly unspecified Joburg-based design studio.
Said to combine the spirits of Mad Max, Terminator and the Dakar rally, the Duster Détour features a beefed-up front brush guard with integrated lights and a rear end with LED taillights, dual exhaust tips, integrated diffuser and rear spoiler, which seem a bit incongruous for a rough-and-tumble off-roader. It's also got a two-tone gloss yellow and matte black paint job, which carries through to the wheels, and an extra set of lights mounted to the front of the roof rails.
Racing is all about winning. But beyond winning, it's about records: which drivers have won the most races, which team has racked up the most titles, which country has produced the most champions, and so on. As far as Formula One constructors go, the lion's share of those titles belong to Ferrari, which has won more grands prix and championships than any other team in the sport. But Renault has just taken away one of its records.
When Mark Webber took pole position in qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend, he was propelled by Renault, and in turn propelled Renault into the record books for the most pole positions by any engine manufacturer in the history of the sport. The 209 poles achieved over the French manufacturer's 36 years and 514 races in the series to date takes it one past Ferrari's record of 208.
Not only that, but Renault claims a much higher qualifying success rate: since joining the series in 1977, Renault-powered drivers have claimed 40 percent of pole positions, compared to 23 percent for Ferrari and 28 percent for Mercedes. 20 percent of those Renault poles were scored by Sebastian Vettel, with Red Bull's unprecedented 18 poles out of 19 races setting a new record in 2011.
Pope Francis has a new car. It's not bulletproof, it isn't made by Mercedes-Benz and it doesn't require that we attach the inglorious suffix "-mobile" to it. In fact, the Pope's new ride is a 1984 Renault 4 that fully lives up to the pontiff's recent urging that we drive "humble" vehicles.
Not that the Pope has shipped in the Renault to hammer home his point. The Renault was reportedly a gift from priest Fr. Renzo Zocca, who put some 190,000 miles on the odometer while tending to the needs of his flock in the northern Italian city of (fair) Verona. It was the car's noble role in working to help poor Italian Catholics that caused Zocca to offer it to Pope Francis in a letter, as the story goes.
Built and sold from the early 1960s thru the 1990s, the 4 may not be very well known in America, but Europeans in general (and the French in particular) are likely to understand just how humble a vehicle this is. More than eight million Renault 4s were built, sold in markets from Australia to South America, all utilizing engines that hovered around the 1.0-liter mark in terms of displacement.
We wouldn't blame you if you never heard of it, but the Renault Wind was, in areas it was available, one of the more intriguing affordable convertibles on the market. It was based on the Twingo, but shared a couple of vital attributes with the Ferrari 575 Superamerica. One, of course, was the innovative Leonardo Fioravanti-designed flip-top roof. The other was its limited production numbers. But while Ferrari restricted production of the Maranello-based roadster, Renault had apparently hoped more people would buy the Wind. Having fallen short at that, the French automaker has reportedly killed off the quirky little roadster.
This after less than three years of production, which could be down (in part at least) to the minuscule four-cylinder engines it offered. Renault tried to give it a more sporty appearance with the Gordini edition, but despite the racing stripes, it didn't offer anything more in the performance department.
It will be interesting to see if Renault manages a more enticing convertible based on the next Twingo, whose rear-engined platform it's developing in tandem with Smart - which as we all know had a short-lived, high-on-bark/low-on-bite roadster of its own. Here's hoping the next generation has a bit more to offer.
The 2014 Renualt Mégane is on display at the Frankfurt Motor Show, flaunting its nose job as the latest vehicle in Renault's lineup updated to reflect new brand styling, which can be seen in cars such as the Clio and Twingo. All versions of the Mégane are receiving the new, bigger grille with gloss-black vent slats and a bigger Renault logo: Hatch (pictured), Sport Tourer, Coupé, Renaultsport and GT models. Pretty soon all Renaults will adopt similar front-end styling cues.
The Hatch, Sport Tourer and Coupé will share front bumpers, hoods and new elliptical headlights with daytime running lights that stretch around the side of the car, though Renault says they'll maintain unique identities. The Renaultsport and GT versions will get new headlights with gloss-black "eyelids," according to a previous press release, but it's not mentioned if they will share any other parts.
The Mégane also is now available with a dual-clutch automatic transmission if paired with the TCe 130 petrol engine, which Renault says has been tuned to have faster throttle response by upgrading engine and transmission control software.
When it comes to European auto shows, your intrepid Autoblog coverage staff is always keen to see what the French have to offer. That's because Gallic companies let their designers off the leash more often than the rest of their global counterparts, freeing them to produce the sort of moonshot, future-think concept cars that we used to associate with the US and Japan.
Even when their showcars are seemingly more rational and production-minded - as is the case with the Renault Initiale Paris concept shown here - they still employ fantastical details. In the case of this Frankfurt Motor Show debut, said details include things like an aluminum and plexiglass roof that proudly displays a map of Paris (complete with the city's districts, roads, and the River Seine), color-shifting paint and and headlamps with eyelash-like blinking mechanisms. Did we mention the 32-speaker Bose audio system? This Renault concept may further the brand's obsession with selling the idea of a luxury car wrapped in a minivan body (see also: Vel Satis, Avantime), but it's really said to presage the next-generation Espace MPV, while showcasing where the company's new high-line Initiale brand may go.
The automaker hasn't provided much in the way of powertrain details, other than to say the engine for this people mover is a modest dCi 130 - Renault-speak for a 1.6-liter twin-turbo diesel four - with 295 pound-feet of torque paired to a shift-by-wire dual-clutch gearbox. That powertrain might just be the most down-to-earth aspect of this whole concept, and we wouldn't be surprised to see it survive intact on the production Espace. Let's hope the claimed 250-kilogram weight loss versus to the current production Grand Scenic - around 550 pounds - also makes it to the production model.