PARIS - Renault has facelifted its hugely successful Scenic compact minivan and will add a four-wheel-drive version to help combat rival launches.
The rest of the industry has finally caught up with Renault in this developing sector of the market. The Mitsubishi Space Star, Opel/Vauxhall Zafira, Fiat Multipla and Mazda Premacy have been introduced. New compact minivans from Citroen, Ford, Nissan and Volkswagen will join the Scenic segment within the next year.
The facelifted Scenic goes on sale in late August and early September across Europe. A four-wheel-drive version - called the Scenic RX 4 - will be introduced in early 2000. Steyr-Daimler-Puch of Austria will provide the transmission components.
The Scenic RX 4 will be unveiled at the International 4x4 and Leisure Vehicle Motor Show, to be held at Val d'Isere, France, from 14-22 August.
The changes consist primarily of new front- and rear-end designs, new grille, new interior equipment, and new 16-valve, 1.4- and 2.0-liter gasoline engines. Extra storage space has also been added, including a refrigeration compartment at the foot of the central console.
The facelift and addition of a four-wheel-drive version are part of Renault's strategy to give the Scenic a greater degree of autonomy within its model range.
'We want the Scenic to remain the reference car in its segment, just like the Espace in the large minivan sector,' said a Renault spokesman.
The Megane badge will disappear from the rear of the car, and will be repositioned discreetly on the C-pillar. This policy will allow Renault to
continue including the Scenic as part of overall Megane sales.
The Scenic has played a large part in Renault's financial recovery. Since
its launch in 1996, Renault has sold 703,000 Scenics worldwide. Production was initially planned at a daily rate of 700-800 units. It has now been raised to 1,600 a day at the plant in Douai, France. The Scenic is also built in Curitiba, Brazil.
Scenic production topped 312,000 units in 1998 - 48 percent of the Megane range's total output.
'We are forecasting to sell between 300,000-320,000 units this year,' said
a Renault spokesman. During the
first five months of this year, the Scenic's five main markets were France (37,000 units), Italy (22,800), Germany (20,840), UK (15,600) and Spain (12,000).