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After watching the Tata Nano post sales numbers smaller than its engine displacement, Renault gave up on its much publicized intention to build a truly inexpensive car to rival it. Then, a month ago, reports emerged that Renault was resuming work on a couple of low-priced cars for emerging markets, but this time it would work with its in-house partner, Nissan. That plan envisions an offering for €3,000 ($3,888 US) and another for €5,000 ($6,400 US), both of which would be more spendy than the Nano but might avoid the charge of being cheap - and nasty - and instead be considered affordable.
A report in Reuters talks to the man in charge, Gerard Detourbet, who has been in Chennai, India since at least August working on the program. Detourbet led the Dacia Logan project and is considered "Renault's low-cost car specialist" and "the father of entry-car programs." This one is reportedly codenamed A-Entry and will create a "'sub-entry' architecture" that will provide roominess beyond the vehicle's price and class, and use an engine with a displacement of 800 cubic centimeters.
It isn't aimed at the Nano, though - it means to take on the products that make up 45-50 percent of India's car market, like the Maruti Suzuki Alto and Hyundai Eon. According to Reuters, out of the 2.6-million-strong Indian car market the Maruti Suzuki line-up alone nabs one million registrations annually. The Alto 800 begins at 244,000 rupees ($4,440 US), the Eon at 300,000 rupees ($5,559 US), the Chevrolet Spark at about 316,000 ($5,750 US); if Renault can nail its price targets it will just about bracket those three and be right in the game.
We haven't heard much about Suzuki since it decided to leave the US market in 2012, but things are going well for the little automaker these days with the recent announcement of record annual profits. It would seem that investors should be ecstatic, but they are starting to question the man at the helm. Company president and chairman Osamu Suzuki is now 84 years old and is guaranteed at least one more year as the leader, but shareholders want to know who is taking his place when the inevitable happens.
We're not being ageist, here. As long as the Suzuki can run the company to the satisfaction of investors, he absolutely deserves the top spot. According to Bloomberg, the issue making shareholders so edgy is that the business doesn't have a transition plan in place. The president obviously isn't a young man, and folks are worried that if something happens suddenly, there could be chaos deciding a successor and a free-falling stock price.
Suzuki's tenure at the company is somewhat astounding. He married the granddaughter of the founder and took her name because the family had no male heirs. In world where many people hope to retire as soon as possible, he's worked for the same automaker for the last 50 years, including stints as company president from 1978 to 2000 and 2008 to the present. Investors aren't questioning the president's ability as a business leader; they just want a clearer understanding of the automaker's future direction.
It's pretty much a done-deal now, folks. A US bankruptcy judge has approved Suzuki's plans to wind down its operations in the States. As part of Suzuki's Chapter 11 proceedings, its automotive unit will cease to exist in the US, leaving the motorcycle, ATV and marine units to function as Suzuki Motor of America.
It's not clear how many vehicles are left on the 219 remaining Suzuki dealership lots - the company reported sales of 1,764 in February - but the automaker has assured customers that warranty service and parts will remain available. Suzuki made an investment of $45 million to ensure its past and current customers aren't completely left in repair-work limbo.
Check out the complete announcement from Suzuki below for more information, and please join us in mourning the loss of the Kizashi sedan and SX4 hatch, two vehicles we are legitimately going to miss when this whole sordid affair is done and over with.