Renault India has done fairly well in the rebadging of the Nissan Micra, in the name of Pulse hatch. While Nissan is busy contemplating the launch of its pocket-friendly car with a Datsun badge, Renault is also mulling to make an entry into small car segment with the i2. According to the French automaker, India will be the first of markets to receive the i2 small car, and it will go up against entry-level hatchbacks including, Hyundai Eon, Maruti Alto and Chevrolet Spark. Carlos Tavares, chief operating officer, Renault, said, “We are the most successful car maker globally in entry-level cars as our design to cost is lowest and this is linked to the Indian preference for frugality.” He further added, “We are trying to evaluate on an entry-level strategy for emerging markets and we are eager to kick off with India.”
For the idea to materialize, Renault has appointed Gerard Detourbet as the managing director of the Renault-Nissan venture to develop a small car for emerging markets. He is a renowned master on frugal engineering. Currently, Renault-Nissan assemble the Micra and Pulse hatch at Nissan’s Oragadam facility near Chennai. While a major volume will be produced for the domestic market, the Oragadam facility will also produce the i2 for global markets.
Nissan has already established itself as a global carmaker, and this could be an opportunity for Renault to build its global image. In terms of sales, Nissan sold 46.7 lacs unit in 2011, in comparison to 27.2 lacs units of Renault. Tavares said, “We continue to be strong in Europe and are the second-largest selling brand after VW and ahead of Ford but we are growing very fast in overseas markets.” He further added, “By next year, more than half of our cars would be made outside of Europe and within the next 10 years, I expect Europe to contribute to less than 40 percent of our overall sales.”
Since Nissan is already developing a small car with a Datsun badge, the upcoming car will be positioned below the Micra and Pulse in terms of price and packaging. The French automaker has the Dascia Duster SUV planned for Diwali, and the rebadged Nissan Sunny, dubbed Scalia is also lined up for 2012 calendar. While most models in the small car segment have low cost, owing to localized production, the pricing of the Renault i2 will decide its fate in the Indian market.