GENEVA – Renault may join Japanese affiliate Nissan in developing models targeted at Russia once the companies complete a deal to buy a majority stake in Russian carmaker AvtoVAZ.
The French carmaker may seek to make use of AvtoVAZ's facilities to develop vehicles destined for the Russian market, Philippe Klein, head of Renault's product planning, said in an interview Tuesday at the Geneva auto show.
Nissan Chief Performance Officer Colin Dodge said at the show that the Japan-based carmaker intends to add three models built in Russia. "We do have the situation in India, where we launched the Renault Pulse, and we leveraged the assets of Nissan in this region to expand our line-up," Klein said. "We have a global strategy as well as this kind of pragmatic approach that we are undertaking when it makes sense."
The Renault-Nissan alliance expects to conclude an agreement with AvtoVAZ's top two Russian shareholders to buy a controlling stake in the automaker in coming weeks, Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault and its Japanese partner, said in Geneva Tuesday.
The process of expanding the stake in the Russian company will probably accelerate now that Russia's presidential elections are finished, Ghosn said.
The three partners will produce cars from a joint platform used for Renault's Dacia Sandero and Logan models, Klein said.
Renault already owns 25 percent of AvtoVAZ.
Russia's car and light-truck market expanded 39 percent in 2011 to 2.65 million vehicles, and AvtoVAZ, the country's biggest automaker, said on March 5 that its sales in February jumped 33 percent.
Christian Klingler, sales chief at Volkswagen, said in Geneva on Tuesday that Russia, along with China and the United States will help keep global auto-industry growth at a "low single-digit" rate this year as Europe's market shrinks.
Carmakers currently undertaking projects in Russia include Fiat, which signed a letter of intent in February with Moscow-based Sberbank to set up a jointly owned factory with capacity for 120,000 vehicles that may also involve U.S. brand Chrysler, and Ford, which is scheduled this year to introduce SUVs made with local partner Sollers.
Renault also plans to add three luxury vehicles to its line-up, including a new version of the Espace minivan scheduled to go on sale in 2014.
An expanded luxury line-up is essential to sustain fleet sales to corporate customers, Jerome Stoll, Renault's sales chief, said in an interview in Geneva.
An executive car based on a platform from partner Mercedes-Benz is being evaluated, Klein said, declining to specify a model.
The third high-end model Renault is considering would be based on an updated platform now used for the Nissan Qashqai and Renault Koleos SUVs, according to Klein and Nissan performance chief Dodge.
The Japanese carmaker's Infiniti luxury unit isn't helping Renault develop the vehicle, Dodge said in an interview. Infiniti has already worked on feasibility studies for a hatchback and sedan to be produced jointly with Mercedes-Benz, Dodge added.