MADRID -- Europes dormant mass-market coupe segment could come to life as Renault launches its new Megane coupe against the Volkswagen Scirocco.
VW launched the Scirocco in Germany and the UK in August, but held off on the remaining European markets until November.
Renault launches the Megane coupe across Europe later this month.
Renault and VW say that design and performance will be key factors as they seek top spot in the coupe segment, which also features the Peugeot 407 Coupe, Opel Astra GTC and Hyundai Coupe.
The Megane coupe is going to offer distinction, attractive design and performance at a major price advantage when compared with the Scirocco, Sebastien Erphelin, Renaults product manager for the Megane line, said during a press event here.
Price a key battleground
Renaults entry-level gasoline-powered coupe will start at 20,300 in France. Diesel models will range from 21,500 to 26,200.
The entry-level gasoline-powered VW Scirocco starts at 21,950 in France, while the diesel range goes from 26,100 to 30,450.
Renault hopes the coupe will account for 20 percent of the Meganes European sales.
The carmaker would not give sales or production forecasts, but CSM Worldwide forecasts production of up to 35,000 Megane coupes during 2009.
About 75 percent of Megane coupe production should be sold in Europe, according to CSM Worldwide.
VW will build 28,000 Sciroccos a year.
The Megane coupe is not simply a two-door version of the new Megane hatchback. Renault has given the coupe its own unique design with only the hood, front fenders and front lights shared with the hatchback model.
The coupe replaces a less sporty looking three-door hatchback that accounted for just 10 percent of sales of the previous-generation Megane.
European carmakers have seen a radical shift in the coupe segment over the past 10 years, as mass-market customers choose either softtop cabriolets or hardtop coupe cabriolets rather than traditional coupes.
The small and lower-medium coupe segment represented sales of 125,107 in 1998, but declined to just 16,653 in 2007, according to market analyst Global Insight.
At the same time, the non-premium small and lower-medium cabriolet segment jumped from 47,854 cars in 1998 to 203,047 cars in 2007, Global Insight said.
Both Renault and VW think that their new product offerings will add some fresh appeal to the segment, which has become the domain of premium carmakers, who now sell more than 15 times as many coupes as volume carmakers.
Last year the top-selling coupe in Europe was the BMW 3-series with 51,962 units sold.