(UK: /ˈrɛnoʊ/ REN-oh, US: /rəˈnɔːlt, rəˈnoʊ/ rə-NAWLT, rə-NOH, French: [ɡʁup ʁəno], also known as the Renault Group in English; legally Renault S.A.) is a French multinational automobile manufacturer established in 1899. The company produces a range of cars and vans, and in the past has manufactured trucks, tractors, tanks, buses/coaches, aircraft and aircraft engines, and autorail vehicles.
According to the Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d’Automobiles, in 2016 Renault was the ninth biggest automaker in the world by production volume. By 2017, the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance had become the world’s biggest seller of light vehicles.
Headquartered in Boulogne-Billancourt, near Paris, the Renault group is made up of the namesake Renault marque and subsidiaries, Alpine, Renault Sport (Gordini), Automobile Dacia from Romania, Renault Samsung Motors from South Korea, and AvtoVAZ from Russia. Renault has a 43.4% stake with several votes in Nissan of Japan, and a 1.55% stake in Daimler AG of Germany (since 2012, Renault manufactures engines for the Daimler’s Mercedes A-Class and B-Class cars). Renault also owns subsidiaries RCI Banque (automotive financing), Renault Retail Group (automotive distribution) and Motrio (automotive parts). Renault has various joint ventures, including Oyak-Renault (Turkey), Renault Pars (Iran). The French government owns a 15% share of Renault.
Renault Trucks, previously known as Renault Véhicules Industriels, has been part of Volvo since 2001. Renault Agriculture became 100% owned by German agricultural equipment manufacturer CLAAS in 2008.
Together Renault and Nissan invested €4 billion (US$5.16 billion) in eight electric vehicles over three to four years beginning in 2011. Since the launch of the Renault electric program, the group has sold more than 273,000 electric vehicles worldwide through December 2019.
Renault is known for its role in motor sport, particularly rallying, Formula 1 and Formula E. Its early work on mathematical curve modeling for car bodies is important in the history of computer graphics.
|Type||Public (Société Anonyme)|
CAC 40 Component
|Founded||25 February 1899|
|Worldwide; 128 countries|
|Products||Automobiles, electric vehicles, commercial vehicles, luxury cars, financing, motorcycles (2001-2006)|
|Revenue||€55.54 billion (2019)|
|€2.10 billion (2019)|
|€0.02 billion (2019)|
|Total assets||€122.17 billion (2019)|
|Total equity||€35.33 billion (2019)|
Number of employees
|179,565 (Q4 2019)|
The Renault corporation was founded on 25 February 1899 as Société Renault Frères by Louis Renault and his brothers Marcel and Fernand. Louis was a bright, aspiring young engineer who had already designed and built several prototypes before teaming up with his brothers, who had honed their business skills working for their father’s textile firm. While Louis handled design and production, Marcel and Fernand managed the business.
In 1903, Renault began to manufacture its own engines; until then it had purchased them from De Dion-Bouton. The first major volume sale came in 1905 when Société des Automobiles de Place bought Renault AG1 cars to establish a fleet of taxis. These vehicles were later used by the French military to transport troops during World War I which earned them the nickname “Taxi de la Marne.” By 1907, a significant percentage of London and Paris taxis had been built by Renault. Renault was also the best-selling foreign brand in New York in 1907 and 1908. In 1908 the company produced 3,575 units, becoming the country’s largest car manufacturer.
The brothers recognised the value of publicity that participation in motor racing could generate for their vehicles. Renault made itself known through succeeding in the first city-to-city races held in Switzerland, producing rapid sales growth. Both Louis and Marcel raced company vehicles, but Marcel was killed in an accident during the 1903 Paris-Madrid race. Although Louis never raced again, his company remained very involved, including Ferenc Szisz winning the first Grand Prix motor racing event in a Renault AK 90CV in 1906.
Louis took full control of the company as the only remaining brother in 1906 when Fernand retired for health reasons. Fernand died in 1909 and Louis became the sole owner, renaming the company Société des Automobiles Renault (Renault Automobile Company).
Renault fostered its reputation for innovation from very early on. At the time, cars were luxury items manufactured without assembly line advances. The price of the smallest Renaults at the time was 3000 francs (₣); an amount equal to ten years pay for the average worker. In 1905, the company introduced mass production techniques and Taylorism in 1913. In 1911, Renault visited Henry Ford at the Highland Park factory and adopted some of the manufacturing principles from his trip.
Renault manufactured buses and commercial cargo vehicles in the pre-war years. The first real commercial truck from the company was introduced in 1906. During World War I, it branched out into ammunition, military aircraft engines (the first Rolls-Royce aircraft engines were modeled and inspired by Renault air-cooled aircraft V8 units) and vehicles such as the revolutionary Renault FT tank. The company’s military designs were so successful that Louis was awarded the Legion of Honour for his company’s contributions. The company exported engines to American automobile manufacturers for use in such automobiles as the GJG, which used a Renault 26 horsepower (19 kW) or 40 hp (30 kW) four-cylinder engine.
Louis Renault enlarged Renault’s scope after 1918, producing agricultural and industrial machinery. The war from 1914-1918 led to many new products. The first Renault tractor, the Type GP was produced between 1919 and 1930. It was based on the FT tank. Renault struggled to compete with the increasingly popular small, affordable “people’s cars,” while problems with the United States stock market and the workforce slowed the company’s growth. Renault also had to find a way to distribute its vehicles more efficiently. In 1920, Louis signed one of its first distribution contracts with Gustave Gueudet, an entrepreneur from Amiens, France which they still maintain a relationship.
The pre-First World War cars had a distinctive front shape caused by positioning the radiator behind the engine to give a so-called “coal scuttle” bonnet. This continued through the 1920s. Only in 1930 did all models place the radiator at the front. The bonnet badge changed from circular to the familiar and continuing diamond shape in 1925. The practice of installing the radiator behind the engine against the firewall continued during the 1950s and 1960s on vehicles where the engine was installed longitudinally in the rear of the vehicle.
Renault introduced new models at the Paris Motor Show that was held in September or October of the year. This led to confusion about model years. For example, a “1927” model was mostly produced in 1928.
Renault cars during this time period had two model lines; the economy four-cylinder engine models that in the 1930s became the suffix “Quatre” and the luxury six-cylinder models that were initially sold with the suffix “-six” that later became the suffix “Stella”. For example, in 1928, when Renault produced 45,809 cars, its seven models started with a 6CV, a 10CV, the Monasix, 15CV, the Vivasix, the 18/22CV and the 40CV. Renault offered eight body styles. The longer rolling chassis were available to coachbuilders. The smaller were the most popular while the least produced was the 18/24CV. The most expensive body style in each range was the closed car. Roadsters and tourers (torpedoes) were the cheapest.
The London operation was important to Renault in 1928. The UK market was quite large and North America also received exports for the luxury car market. Lifted suspensions, enhanced cooling, and special bodies were common on vehicles sold abroad. Exports to the US by 1928 had declined to near-zero from their high point prior to WWI. A Type NM 40CV Tourer had a US list price of over USD$4,600 ($68,492 in 2019 dollars ), about the same as a Cadillac V-12, Packard Eight, Fiat 520, or Delahaye. Closed 7-seat limousines like the Renault Suprastella started at USD$6,000 ($89,337 in 2019 dollars ).
Cars were conservatively engineered and built. The Renault Vivasix, model PG1, was sold as the “executive sports” model beginning in 1927. Lighter weight factory steel bodies powered by a 3,180 cubic centimetre (cc) six-cylinder motor provided a formula that lasted until the Second World War.
“de Grand Luxe Renaults”, those with a wheelbase over 12-foot (3.7 m), were produced in small numbers in two major types – six- and eight-cylinder. The 1927 six-cylinder Grand Renault models NM, PI and PZ introduced the new three spring rear suspension that considerably aided stability that was needed since some vehicles surpassed 90 mph (140 km/h).
The straight 8-cylinder Reinastella was introduced in 1929 and expanded to a range culminating in 1939 Suprastella. Coachbuilders included Kellner, Labourdette, J. Rothschild et Fils and Renault bodies. Closed car Renault bodies were often trimmed with interior woodwork by Rothschild.