The Renault –
Nissan Alliance is alive and working – in India! On the sidelines of the inaugural Indian F1 Grand Prix, Renault India didn’t want to miss an opportunity to highlight its strong and successful F1 story and link it to its everyday cars. Thus what was supposed to be its version of the Nissan Micra was unveiled to the media on Saturday, October 29 in Noida by none other than Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber and Team Lotus-Renault’s Karun Chandhok. Of course, Renault’s COO Carlos Tavares and Renault India’s managing director Marc Nassif did join in to assist them and also outline Renault’s product portfolio strategy which talks about five distinctly different models in a 15 month span.
Till date Renault has two distinct models on sale in India courtesy the Fluence sedan and the Koleos soft-roader. The Pulse Hatchback will be its third model which will debut nationwide around Auto Expo time while the Renault (Dacia) Duster will be next up followed by a fifth model which Renault suggests would be a major surprise. If that is not all, Renault has commenced manufacture of its 1.5dci diesel engine (internally designated as the k9k unit) at its Chennai plant shared with Nissan and while the present capacity is slated at 140,000 units per year, this would be scaled up to 300,000 units.
The Pulse is the Nissan Micra with completely revised front and rear end style treatment and I must say that the car is distinctive and stands out when viewed head on. However in profile the game is given away but then the overall design of the car with space being its largest virtue does come across strongly. I personally think that the Renault accents on the basic Micra make for a better visual appeal and with a 1.5dci engine as the first choice powerplant from day one, it is also innovative in that sense for a mid-size hatchback.
Renault desperately wanted to make a connect with its racing successes in F1 and the Pulse by suggesting the RS27 F1 engine used by Red Bull Racing and the 1.5dci shared the same mantra on operating efficiencies. Carlos Tavares went on to highlight this fact quite lucidly and as if to illustrate this fact further, there also was a slightly racier Pulse in Renault’s yellow racing livery. Much of the design work on the front and the rear ends was done by Renault’s design studio in Mumbai and executed at the Renault-Nissan Alliance plant at Oragadam near Chennai.
Sadly, or confusingly, how the small car strategy could pan out for Renault is yet hazy because once you open the doors and glance in, the entire layout is all Micra – dash, trim, accents, placements, the works. Yes platform and component sharing is all the rage and even Marc Nassif highlighted how the Nissan X-Trail and the Renault Koleos are one and the same under the skin. However what he forgot to narrate or outline was that visually there is no connect between the X-Trail and the Koleos and that helps both vehicles Enjoy robust positioning in the minds.
The overt Micra details might help on the costing front but they would turn out to be discordant notes for punters wanting to put their money on it. No offence meant, the logic is sound on one hand but its impact could be absolutely otherwise, so competitive is the market and so demanding is the consumer in product differentiation. On the positive side though, the strong performance coupled to the high fuel efficiency (23kmpl as per ARAI reference) should have the Pulse rates popping in delight.
With over two months to go before the commercial launch of the vehicle, Renault quite correctly didn’t reveal pricing details and this would only be known at Auto Expo time in early January 2012. However one can rest assured that it would be around the Micra’s price points, though it is hard to see if Renault would want to charge a premium for the inferred European touch! Answers soon, so stay tuned!