PARIS - Renault will form two new divisions as part of its restructuring after huge financial losses in 1996.
One division will be responsible for the Mercosur market in South America. The other will be in charge of Renault's light commercial vehicles.
Renault has taken several steps since announcing losses of FF5.2 billion ($910 million) in 1996.
It will close the Vilvoorde, Belgium, plant in July and is working with suppliers to cut component costs.
Last month, top management was reshuffled. Carlos Ghosn, executive vice-president, was given new authority to oversee the restructuring, including responsibility for South American operations.
The Mercosur division will oversee Renault industrial and marketing activities in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. It will be headed by Luc-Alexandre Menard, currently sales manager for France.
Menard will also become chairman of Cofal, the holding company that controls Renault operations in Brazil and Argentina. Menard will report to Ghosn, who spent five years in Brazil working for Michelin in the 1980s.
The Mercosur division headquarters will be located in South America, probably in Brazil.
Renault also announced that the Megane Scenic minivan will be built in the Curitiba, Brazil, plant now under construction. The plant is due to open at the end of 1998. A second vehicle, the successor to the Clio, will be added in 1999.
The Megane hatchback and sedans will be built at Renault's Ciadea, Cordoba, plant in Argentina beginning late this year.
Ciadea made 68,700 cars in 1996, including 25,600 R19s, 18,000 R9s, 15,000 Clios, 8,700 Trafic vans and 1,150 R21s. Megane production will replace the R19.
The light commercial vehicles division begins operations on 1 July. It will be managed by Francis Stahl, currently Renault's corporate controller. Stahl will report to Patrick Faure, executive vice-president in charge of worldwide sales.
The new division will control marketing and manufacturing activities, including assembly plants in Maubeuge and Batilly, and parts plants in Gennevilliers and Creil.
It will also be responsible for a joint venture with General Motors that will produce the Trafic successor. Renault made 217,500 light commercial vehicles in 1996, but lost ground to PSA in the category.