Renault S.A. is drawing up a strategic plan to launch production in China in 2016, said a senior company executive.
"We are now in a phase of approach on this market. First we'll have to establish a dealer network," Carlos Tavares, Renault's new chief operating officer, said at the company's half-year results press conference last Thursday.
Tavares said Renault currently sells few vehicles in China, mainly the Koleos SUV built by Renault Samsung in Korea, adding: "Sales figures are low but one's always starts low."
Later, Tavares told told Bloomberg Television that the automaker is "now preparing our strategic plan for China, and of course it will have a manufacturing component."
Tavares added that "it's a reasonable goal" to launch production by 2016.
Renault's likely partner in such an enterprise would be Dongfeng Motor Corp., which already has a successful joint venture with Nissan Motor Co., Renault's alliance partner.
In his Bloomberg interview, Tavares called the Nissan-Dongfeng joint venture "one of the best partnerships in the industry."
However, a Renault manufacturing venture would be a strategic reversal of sorts for the alliance.
Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan and Renault, had previously said that Nissan should take the lead in China's fast-growing market.
Indeed, in the first six months of 2011, Nissan was the second-best selling brand in China with sales of 386,079 units, according to J.D. Power & Associates. By contrast, Renault sold only a few thousand imports in China.
But the French government wants Renault to seek growth opportunities in markets like China and Brazil, the Financial Times reported in May.
And it looks as if Renault is taking some initial steps. This year, the automaker is expanding its network of dealerships in China to 80 stores, up from 50. The company will open additional stores in 2012.
"It's clear that we are not just growing our dealer network to sell cars that are imported into China," Tavares remarked in his interview with Bloomberg.
Betrand Gay in Paris contributed to this report