… the first part!
Speaking of electric cars, what is your opinion of the EC 2011 White Paper and of the studies conducted in the US, by Exxon and by Toyota itself, according to which a significant market is only possible after 2020?
Don’t you think Renault’s anticipating the times is counterproductive? And if you don’t, why not?
I don’t think so because a significant market for electric vehicles is created through a very complex process that includes information to the public, raising of government authorities’ awareness, cooperation with energy companies for increasingly widespread installation of public and private charging equipment, execution of projects using electric vehicles in a wide range of uses and mobility services, so as to demonstrate their efficiency with facts. This process requires time, probably years, and requires a system approach, not merely a commercial approach like the one adopted so far by auto makers for the sale of more “traditional” models.
For Renault, the Z.E. programme would be counterproductive if our group were not simultaneously proactive with its thermal range: but this is not the case.
What prevents manufacturers from focusing more on LPG and methane fueled cars (even without incentives), since this technology is established and available without the need for significant short-term investments?
The LPG/methane segment exists almost only in Italy, and in any case it is occupied by many manufacturers, as it is currently rather “fashionable”. To go back to one of your previous questions, we might ask why the LPG/methane market share is only 13% in 2012.
The reality is that differently fueled engines coexist today, they all have advantages and drawbacks for consumers, and it will remain so in the next few years, or perhaps forever, though the proportions of petrol, diesel, electric, biofuels, LPG, methane and hybrid, will change over time. Each solution may be right and suitable depending on each motorist’s needs, which are all different from each other. So it’s a good thing that the market is able to meet every need in the best possible way. Of course, each auto maker will choose which solutions to focus on, based on its differentiation strategies and its vision of the future of mobility. As I said before, Renault’s choice today is towards a strong research commitment, on the one hand for thermal engine downsizing and energy efficiency (I could mention the new Clio with record CO2 emissions, as low as 83 g of CO2 per km – a level generally achieved by hybrid vehicles; however, some Renault and Dacia models are also offered in LPG version). And on the other hand for the development of 100% electric vehicles, the real turning point to achieve environmental protection.
Renault offers thermal engine cars and 100% electric cars. In your view, is it easy for showroom sales people to have these two alternatives one next to the other? As far as you know, do dealers discourage customers from buying these cars?
The introduction of Renault’s Z.E. electric models creates no more complications than the introduction of diesel cars and electronics did decades ago.
Renault has organized its entire dealership network (a total of almost 150 sites in Italy) for the sale and support of electric vehicles and for the provision of all services useful to customers. It’s the “One stop shopping” concept. Customers walking into the dealership can easily access any service: from buying, renting, or getting a loan for a vehicle, to renting a battery and receiving services (connectivity, insurance, warranty extensions, etc.), and even solutions for charging the car at home or at a public station, through our partnerships with Enel and Schneider Electric.
This is helping our dealers to improve their skills, services and customer offers, without impacting thermal vehicle sales. Once again, I would like to emphasize that the choice of what is best for them is up to the customers, but being able to present a wide range of options, from the more traditional and “reassuring” to the more innovative and technologically advanced, can only be a competitive advantage for our dealership network.
Innovations have never needed incentives to be successful.
However, many insist that lack of incentives is the only reason for poor growth in the alternative energy area. Do you agree that this is needed to promote innovation? In times of austerity and downsizing, doesn’t this seem like a contradiction?
I agree that, in themselves, incentives “spoil” the market, and no business model can be based on this type of principle. In fact, Renault’s commitment since the initial design phases of the electric range, was to build a system that for the first time would allow large-scale sales, thanks to accessible prices and original forms of battery rental. Today, our electric vehicles are the most competitively priced on the market. This said, in the case of a strongly innovative technological solution like electric vehicles, some forms of incentive may provide an additional reason for customers to adopt a new, alternative and responsible mobility solution.
To summarize, incentives won’t create a market segment, but will accelerate its growth.