Renault has been the European leader in electric vehicle sales, though the overall numbers remain a tiny fraction of the market. Gilles Normand, Renault's head of EVs, talked with Automotive News Europe about how electric vehicles can compete on the sales floor.
Renault doubled the Zoe EV's range to 400 km (250 miles) under the European testing cycle and 300 in the real word. How are sales doing?
This year to date, the order intake is up 60 percent and sales are up 40 percent. We want to grow on par with the market or faster to increase share. Last year we had a 25 percent market share for battery electric vehicles in Europe. Through the end of May in Europe, we had a 26.4 share.The market is growing about 30 percent for BEVs in Europe versus last year. So we gained more than the market.
Is that because of the extra range?
We thought for a car like the Zoe, a B segment (subcompact) car, when you cross the line of 400 km/300 km, you move out of the traditional EV niche segment -- tech-savvy or eco-conscious people. We are moving to a mainstream business. We didn't suddenly convince all the people using internal combustion engine cars that this is the solution but we are drawing more and more people, because a 400 km/300km for a second car in urban or suburban usage makes a lot of sense.
How will Renault respond to VW brand's I.D. line of all-electric vehicles?
There is some obvious benefit to competition. After all, if you are playing the game alone, it's a little bit boring. You have to do everything. When we started, we had to master the technology, train our employees, convince our dealer network and leasing companies, ask the government to support and develop infrastructure.
Having more entrants on the market is good for everybody. It puts us more in our normal role of OEM, which is making competitive cars.
However, it's fair to say that even when we look ahead to 2025 and beyond, the competitive pressure we can foresee in the segment, even with entrants from the German OEMs and others, will still be less than ICE cars. We are still in a kind of blue-ocean strategy where there will be more vehicles offered and we won't be alone anymore, but we won't be in as crowded a segment as in ICE (internal combustion engine) cars.
How do you compare selling electric vehicles with internal combustion vehicles?
Basically, it's still selling an object for mobility. But you have to appeal to a different selling point. For example EVs are noiseless, vibrationless, the torque is delivered in a very comfortable way. So there are a lot of factual benefits people need to know and to be taught about. It’s about sales training.