The Renault Twizy, one of the most distinctive vehicles produced by a major automaker in recent years, has found a new life in Asia.
The Twizy, an electric two-seat runabout that the European Union classifies as a “quadricycle,” first appeared in April 2012, even before the more-mainstream Renault Zoe electric hatchback hit the market.
The Twizy was the best-selling full-electric vehicle in Europe that year, with sales of more than 9,000. (In comparison, about 5,000 Nissan Leafs were sold in 2012.) But since then, the novelty has worn off, and Twizy sales have fallen to around 2,000 per year, well below forecasts.
Last autumn, Renault said it would move assembly of the Twizy from Valladolid, Spain, to the Renault Samsung Motors plant in Busan, South Korea -- where it has become a minor sensation. According to the Korea Joongang Daily, more than 1,400 Twizys were sold in South Korea through last November. A promotion on a home-shopping channel drew nearly 3,700 inquiries, Korean media reported.
Renault jump-started interest in the Twizy last February with a pilot project in conjunction with the Korean postal service. The goal is to replace 10,000 high-polluting internal combustion motorcycles with “ultra-compact electric vehicles” by 2020 -- presumably, mainly Twizys.
Renault now hopes to sell at least 15,000 Twizys through 2024, with capacity at Busan of up to 5,000 per year. The tiny Twizy is well-suited for narrow streets in Seoul and other Asian cities, Renault says, with particular market potential in Southeast Asia.
“You can’t kill this model,” Renault’s electric vehicle director Gilles Normand said. “The Twizy is not dead yet. We’ve been able to tailor it for local demand in Korea, for the postal service or for local delivery fleets, while it has more individual use in Europe.”
Perhaps a little imagination is all that’s needed to sell more Twizys, Normand admitted.
“We've been pleased to see that each time we give more attention to it the consumer has responded well,” he said. “What I'm discovering with my team is that we were maybe lacking in attention to the Twizy.”