Twizy twinkles but can Renault recover in Ireland?
Neither the electric Twizy or Clio RS fits with otherwise logical - and greyer - Renault range
Renault has something of an image problem in Ireland. To the true motoring enthusiast, Renault is one of the most storied and innovative car makers that has ever existed, the firm that essentially invented the modern hatchback, the MPV (both full size and compact) and in many eyes perfecting the hot hatch with the original 1994 Clio Williams.
In Ireland though, Renault’s recent success was built on two pillars - plain vanilla hatchbacks and saloons (the Megane and Fluence mostly) and, during the most recent period of government-supported ‘scrappage’, large-scale discounting.
While the discounts lasted, Renault’s Irish star rose, but now that they’re gone, its market share has fallen back considerably and there are indications that much of the decision-making for Ireland is now falling under the remit of Renault UK.
So it was that we decamped to Mondello Park racing circuit to investigate the two sides of Renault - that of the great innovator and motorsports success, and that of corporate worries and hard cash.
Speaking to incoming Renault Ireland MD Patrick Magee, there does seem to be come cautious optimism surrounding the Renault operation in Ireland. Despite the fact that sales are running at around half as much as they were at Renault’s recent peak in 2010, the brand is attracting significant new dealers, and it is one of only three brands in Ireland with its own finance arm (the other two being Volkswagen Group - with its myriad sub-brands of course - and BMW). Plus it also has its Dacia budget brand, which has the potential to contribute significant extra market share.
“Renault Ireland is here and we’ll be here for the future” Magee told us. “Renault Ireland is not a desk of the UK, it’s now part of a new management system within Renault Europe which links us to the UK, Malta and Cyprus. But the plan is that we are an Irish-based company with an Irish management team.” There will, however, be job losses at Renault’s Dublin headquarters. Magee would not be drawn on how many or when, merely saying that the company would have to monitor volumes and sales over the next few months and then make a decision, bearing in mind that it wants to expand again, not merely react to a contraction in sales.
Will the Twizy or a new Clio RS help those sales?
Probably not as much as a facelifted Megane (due in November) or Dacia’s new Sandero Stepway crossover or Logan estate, but they are both at least reminders that Renault can be about more than just market share figures or sensible hatchbacks.
The Twizy is a willfully odd machine, and it’s the third all-electric Renault to arrive on these shores (following on from the Fluence and Kangoo Z.E models). It’s a tandem two seat quadricycle that looks like a cross between an escaped pram and a Steven Spielberg special effect. Its tiny electric motor provides just 17bhp and 15Nm of torque, but these figures are enough for it to eventually wind up to an 80kmh top speed. It’s not a car, it’s what Renault calls “a new and unique approach to urban mobility.”