RENAULT SOUTH AFRICA 2012: DRIVING THE CHANGE
Under the watch of Xavier Gobille, Managing Director of Renault SouthAfrica, the brand has experienced exponential growth in spite of challenging global economic trends and a highly contested local market.
With production of the entry level Renault Sandero hatchback firmly established inSouth Africasince February 2009, Renault’s status changed from vehicle importer to local motor manufacturer and the made-in SA hatchback now accounts for over 50% of unit sales. From the outset, Sandero’s affordable price tag, parts availability and pricing, class-leading space – including 320 litres of boot space – and myriad above-class category specifications and features, have combined to make the sturdy and stylish hatchback a resounding success with South African car buyers.
Re-established inSouth Africa16 years ago, Gobille took over the reins at Renault SA in January 2008. In tandem with a strong and committed management team, he has worked hard at every level to promote the image, products, quality and service levels afforded by the brand. These efforts, together with those of an enthusiastic and loyal dealer network, have earned Renault its deserved status as one ofSouth Africa’s Top 10 performing motor manufacturers.
With its June 2012 launch of Renault Fleet, Renault’s objective is to create awareness of the brand’s fleet-appropriate vehicles – while building on the entire range – and looks set to further improve its ranking.
“With Renault Fleet, we have developed an excellent product and service offering, our core focus to support our dealer network fleet executives and, via a dedicated website (renaultfleet.co.za), to provide them with the tools necessary to transact in the VAT-registered business-to-business fleet sales arena,” explains Leslie Ramsoomar, Vice President of Sales & Operations at Renault South Africa.
“Year-to-date dealer channel sales are up 18% on 2011 and we expect Renault Fleet transactions to boost this figure.”
Renault South Africa in perspective
At the annual National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA) awards event in late 2008, Renault made it into a winner category for the first time ever scoring a bronze. Silver awards followed in 2009 and 2010 and in September 2011, Renault received gold coming second out of a total of 37 motor manufacturers, a mere 0.1% behind the front-runner.
“Our dealer network has never been as large or as happy and we now have coverage across almost 90% of the country,” says Gobille. “The recent opening of Seaman’s Renault Knysna brings the total number to 50, many of them dual dealerships with our global alliance partner, Nissan South Africa.
“The fact that motor retail organizations and independent companies want to invest their money in Renault is a good indicator that as a brand, our appeal is growing.” A further five rural dealerships are in the pipeline he adds.
In 2011, the dealer network Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) on new cars reached an all-time record with a brand recommendation rate in excess of 92% on new cars sales and over 73% for service. According to Leslie Ramsoomar, Vice President of Sales & Operations at Renault SA, overall quality and service levels have never been better.
“Our ongoing efforts in the car rental and leasing sectors were recognised at the Southern African Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association annual awards event and we were very pleased to receive two top awards: Most Improved Manufacturer: Leasing and Most Improved Manufacturer: Overall.
“With the implementation of our 5-year/150 000km warranty in January 2010, we set the benchmark in terms of new vehicle warranties and continue to lead the industry. In addition, Renault Confiance comes standard and ensures our customers complete peace of mind motoring.
March 2012 saw the launch of the comprehensively rejuvenated Renault Clio III hatchback with its focus on offering a fresh level of affordability, practical technology and exceptional value for money.
The addition of the new Authentique model in April served to increase the outstanding value offering of the Renault Fluence sedan line-up while the third annual Renault Knysna Hillclimb held in late May was the platform for the launch of the Limited Edition Mégane Renault Sport Trophy 265, spearhead of the new Mégane Renault Sport range.
Renault’s segment-defining Scénic and Grand Scénic multi-purpose vehicle models were also part of the fun and action in Knysna and displayed their improved styling, equipment and functionality, the all-new 1.6 dCi Energy engine with Stop-and-Start and Formula 1-derived technology that delivers higher levels of performance and exceptional efficiency.
The new Renault Koleos small-utility vehicle crossover also débuted in Knysna and with its bold new exterior styling, Koleos boasts sophistication combined with simplicity unrivalled in its class.
People are at the heart of Renault’s brand vision – the creation and development of products and services that suit everyone while going hand-in-hand with changes in the world. “Vehicles that are comfortable, reliable, innovative, adaptable to our lifestyles and expectations and affordable for all is our inspiration,” explains Xavier Gobille.
Following on from the last three years of substantial growth, priorities for Renault are to maintain its upswing in the car market and the roll out of its people- and eco-centric brand vision says Fabien Payzan, Vice President of Marketing & Communications.
In March, Renault SA again confirmed its position as title sponsor of the challenging Knysna Simola Hill Climb event, the highlight of the 2012 Knysna Speed Festival. “The Hill Climb is a unique event that provides the opportunity to platform true competitive sportsmanship and motor technology and performance at its best”, says Gobille.
Renault has a rich involvement in motor sport spanning 35 years and has supported the exciting growth of the Festival from its first Hill Climb in 2009 to the world class week of motoring and related events that it is today.
A sponsorship deal negotiated with Cooked in Africa Films’ and valued at R2.1-million, will see a fleet of 15 new Renault Koleos 4x4s playing a starring role in South Africa’s first Ultimate Braai Master reality television competition. As exclusive vehicle sponsor of the TV series, Renault will also be supplying an additional 29 vehicles for production and crew valued at R4-million.
The contestants will be joining celebrity bush chef and show host, Justin Bonello on 13 July for the official start of the 52-day competition, which will see them travelling 8 000 kilometres in their Koleos 4x4s to compete in 13 location-based challenges across South Africa.
Ultimate Braai Master takes to the air on 13th September 2012 on SABC 3 and with 15 pairs of contestants (braai master plus braai buddy) competing, the eventual winner will be announced during the show’s grand finale to be screened on 6th December.
In addition to assuming the title of South Africa’s Ultimate Braai Master, the winner will drive away in a brand new Koleos 4×4 valued at R325 000 and also receive R500 000 prize money.
Renault-SA Fashion Week New Talent Search
“Design is an integral element of the Renault brand,” concludes Payzan. “It speaks to innovation, passion and technical savvy and, never more so, than with the launch of the flagship products in our 2012 Collection.
“In line with this and our people-friendly brand vision, Renault SA has embarked on a three-year sponsorship of the country’s prima fashionista event that will see our clothing design protégées taking to the catwalk during the legendary SA Fashion Week (SAFW) this September.
“The Renault-SA Fashion Week New Talent Search is a unique concept that will not only unmask South Africa’s hottest design talent but also provide this winning designer with a springboard to claim his or her place under the spotlight of this country’s vibrant and highly contested fashion arena.
“People-friendly progress is what the Renault-SA Fashion Week New Talent search is all about and with the creation of this innovative and exciting new platform, Renault SA is delighted to be taking a meaningful step towards turning our vision into a positive reality.”
According to Wim van Schie, Vice President of Quality & Service at Renault SA, the retention of technical skills throughout the dealer network, especially those of the more senior production staff, is an on-going priority.
“After-sales training has also gone a long way to ensuring that our service technicians interface with our customers in a positive and professional manner,” he says. “Our 110% Commitment roadshow kicked off in April and is progressing well. The format is an after-hours presentation to all technical productive staff, explaining the role they play in the customers ‘completely satisfied’ interaction during a service intervention.
“The feedback has been very positive, with the forum allowing these staff members to openly discuss aspects of their work that may not be ‘value add’ and in several instances, these suggestions have been taken into account and changes implemented.”
In respect of field staff, Van Schie says that Renault’s objective is to “bring maturity to the network”, make them more commercially-orientated and empower them with the authority to make decisions directly with customers.
“This is all part of our 110% Commitment philosophy which has become intrinsic to the Renault brand. 110% is about taking ownership of the brand and delivering over and above what’s in your job description. It’s all about attitude.”
According to Jenni Stephens, Renault SA’s Vice President of Human Resources, the company’s robust Graduate Programme continues to prove itself as a very successful bridge for young South Africans making the transition from university to a working career.
Investing in the region of R3.4-million annually on non-technical training and development across head office and the Renault dealer network, the 2010/11 programme saw 19 interns embarking on the programme and taking up positions across a range of disciplines.
“The graduate programme is one thrust in our overall training and development strategy, we see sense and value in it and it has been built into our budget going forward,” she reports.
Turning to the Renault-Nissan Alliance which was established in March 1999, Gobille says thatSouth Africa is proving to be one of the best examples – worldwide – of the alliance at work.
“With more than 50% of the cars that we sell (Sandero) coming out of the Rosslyn plant, Nissan SouthAfricais a real asset to us. We share commonality of certain parts, have a number of dual dealerships, a shared training centre and combined purchasing power so, together, we are far more powerful and able to assist each other in virtually every area of our business.”
While the two brands have considerable back-end synergy, however, “we are fiercely protective of them and ensure that they remain separate.”
Gobille goes on to say that as with Nissan SA, he regards Imperial, a 49% shareholder in Renault SA, as an asset to the business “and we are most fortunate to have these two companies partnering us.”
While he won’t go into detail, Gobille indicates that following theAlliance’s investment of over R1-billion in the plant to facilitate the build of the Renault Sandero and the Nissan NP200 bakkie on the same platform, research has been conducted to establish how the production facility can be leveraged to the benefit of both companies. He describes the study as “very advanced but with no green light as yet.”
“On the global front, the Renault Group is flying and many South Africans may not be aware of our operations around the world,” reports Gobille.
In 2011, the group set a new record achieving sales of 2 722 062 cars and LVCs, 3.6% up on 2010 – in spite of the impact surrounding the tsunami and European debt crisis.
InEurope, Renault is second largest in respect of passenger car sales and number one in panel van sales. Group sales outsideEuroperose by 19.2% accounting for 43% of the brand’s global tally and Renault is looking to further increase this growth.
The Renault Group, however, is not just about selling cars and in every country where it it present, a relevant corporate social responsibility programme soon follows.
“For Renault SA, a source of great pride is our Valued Citizens Initiative (VCI) founding partner status,” says Gobille.
A Non-Government Organisation, its primary objective is to encourage the youth ofSouth Africato take responsibility for their civil rights, abide by the rule of law and take pride in their national identity and this is reflected in each of VCI’s eight programmes which support the Departments of Education in the provinces in which it is active.
“I was the Renault Group’s representative inSouth Africawhen Valued Citizens first started at a Sowetan school in April 2000 so it is very close to my heart,” he explains. “Nothing was promised or yet proven so there was risk involved but I was given the go-ahead to afford them financial support.
“Thanks to the magic of Valued Citizens, Renault has been privileged to help drive change in the lives of well over 500 000 young South Africans. They, in turn, they have impacted on millions more. What Carole Podetti-Ngono, VCI’s founder and her team have achieved over the past 12 years is nothing short of amazing.”
Drive the Change is the moniker of Renault’s global action plan 2010 – 2016. Particularly relevant to the brand’s activities in the South African market, it has been adopted by Renault SA as its brand signature.
“Renault is a very different company to what it was in 2008 and I believe that our success stems from a strong sense of survival that has made us one of the most motivated and retail-orientated companies in our industry,” says Gobille.
“We are proactively driving change in the market, moving boundaries, changing our dealer network, where and how we operate. The team is dynamic, energetic and young; we have a strong and professional dealer network, all striving to live up to Renault’s 110% Commitment philosophy.
“At the same time, we have an incomparable range of vehicles covering virtually every sector of the market and while we never under-estimate our competitors, Renault’s quality and service levels and overall value proposition in the market have never been as good.
“I believe we are capable of more than our current market share and I feel confident that Renault Fleet will go a long way in addressing this,” he concludes.