Renault Australia has killed plans to bring the Spanish-built Renault Alaskan dual-cab utility to Australia.
Speaking to Australian media, Renault Australia CEO Anouk Poelmann instead confirmed that the French brand’s first Aussie ute will come from "within the Alliance". The Renault-Mitsubishi-Nissan Alliance is collaborating on a global ute development program, led by Mitsubishi, which will spawn the next-generation Triton and Nissan Navara from 2022.
Ms Poelmann said the decision to axe the Alaskan import program was not an easy one, but it was the right one. The Renault Alaskan “is not right for the Australian market [in terms of] the specifications, the setup, [so] we are looking at other opportunities”
Renault Australia’s product planner Charly Clercin elaborated, implying the Alaskan’s lifestyle-focused suspension tune would not suit the more workhorse-focused Australian market. “We had at first some issues with the setup of the cars, particularly with the suspension tuning because the car is coming from Spain. It’s been done specifically for Europe. We didn’t feel like it was suited to Australian expectations.”
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Renault did investigate the option of local suspension tuning but ruled it cost-prohibitive against expected sales volumes.
“With the volume that the brand is doing in Australia, it’s just too much to tune that suspension just for the Australian market.”
Ms Poelmann then confirmed that Renault Australia’s first Aussie ute “will be from within the Alliance”, though she stopped short of naming the Mitsubishi Triton, the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s only other utility.
“I wouldn’t want to be ahead of ourselves. We absolutely are investigating it but I wouldn’t want to assume… The last thing we want to do is replace one promise with another promise. It’s the biggest mistake you can make, not just for the consumer but also for your dealers. You can’t promise things that you can’t deliver."
Mitsubishi is taking the lead on development of the Alliance’s next-generation global ute platform, which makes sense given the current Triton is considered more capable and polished than the ageing Navara.
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As to what the Renault ute would be called, or how it will differ from the Triton and Navara, Ms Poelmann responded “we are not so far yet into the details,” which suggests that the Renault ute is still at least three years in the future.
She did refute suggestions that it would be just a Triton with a Renault badge. “No, no, it would be a true Renault.” It will have exterior styling “as a Renault looks like.”
Recent reports out of Europe suggest that two other brands reliant on the Triton and Navara for their own utes, Mercedes-Benz and Fiat, may have to axe their utes, or find other brand partners quickly.
The current Mercedes-Benz X-Class is built on the Nissan Navara, but Mercedes’ global boss Ola Kallenius has been quoted saying he will “end the co-operation” due to poor sales.
As for Fiat, which uses the Triton as the basis for its own Fullback ute in Europe, that’s never been a particularly happy collaboration. Sources close to the matter have revealed that the contract with Mitsubishi required the Fiat model to have a higher price and less equipment in all markets where the two compete. It’s unlikely that Alliance member Renault would be subject to similar conditions.