BRUCE GAIN

Cancelled Clio event is latest indication of Renault's belt-tightening

Bruce Gain is an Automotive News Europe correspondent in France.Bruce Gain is an Automotive News Europe correspondent in France.
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Renault has cancelled next month's press event for the launch of its new Clio, one of many cost-cutting moves that the automaker will make as it seeks to weather the worsening storm in Europe's car markets.

The Clio is by far Renault's most important launch of the year as the company is counting on the best-selling subcompact to generate volume sales of about 400,000 to 500,000 units a year in competition with Peugeot's new 208.

In an e-mail to more than 500 journalists, Renault explained that tough economic conditions were forcing it to cancel its Geneva press event. Journalists may get to see the car in Paris next month, while dealerships are still invited to a launch event in Geneva.

With so much riding on the new Clio, the cancellation shows just how aggressively Renault is seeking to shave costs.

In a bid to stem losses, Renault's Chief Operating Officer Carlos Tavares has ordered immediate companywide cost cuts, a Renault executive told Automotive News Europe.

"We were told that it is better to bail water out of the boat now than to wait until we were in the middle of the storm to do that," the executive said.

The announcement coincided this week with statements from Tavares as well as CEO Carlos Ghosn about what will likely be worsening industry stagnation and overcapacity in Europe, with Ghosn forecasting three to four years of stagnation.

In light of this, next month's cancelled event can be seen as just one step toward much deeper cost-cutting measures at France's second-biggest automaker.

You can reach Bruce Gain at bgain@crain.com.

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