in india the renault kwid has become a bestseller within a year.
Renault has what VW in india would like to have: a successful cheap car. Developed locally and there the reason for new sales records. But now the kwid is also set to conquer the rest of the world. the wolfsburgers will probably be left out in the cold.
With thick plastic planks, the kwid protects itself in indian traffic.
it is shortly after nine and at the trident car dealership in narayanapura village in bangalore they are enjoying the calm before the storm. The dozen or so salesmen in the unadorned showroom are still standing together in a circle, wishing each other a successful day in the morning team ritual. But in half an hour they open the glass doors and the hustle and bustle begins. "Since renault launched the kwid a little over a year ago, all hell has broken loose for us", says salesman pavithran, who quickly decorates a new car with flower garlands and prepares the handover. After all, buying a car is still something special in a country where there are just 25 vehicles for every 1,000 inhabitants.
1000 orders a day
He also has a duster, lodgy or a clio with a notchback in his showroom. But of course pavithran once again ties the garlands to a kwid. Because the small car is the big star in the renault range on the subcontinent. he and his colleagues alone sell 150 kwid per month at the three locations in bangalore, which is four times as many as the previous bestseller, the duster.
The gearbox needs some sensitivity, steering and brakes require farsightedness.
On a good day, more than 1,000 orders come in from all over the country, says design chief laurens van den acker. Yet the plant in chennai only has a capacity of 2000 vehicles per week. No wonder the figures at headquarters are through the roof. In the meantime, 150.000 kwid sold in india, and thanks to the tiny car, renault has increased its registrations sevenfold – while the market has "only" grown in this period has increased by 17 percent.
Lessons learned from flops
The main reason the kwid is so successful is, of course, its price. As a budget car, the basic version costs little more than 3500 euros, making it one of the cheapest cars on the market. But it’s mainly because it doesn’t look cheap, says design chief laurens van den acker, who designed the 3.68-meter bouncer with thick plastic planks to counter the madness on delhi’s streets& co has prepared.
The kwid delights indian customers with a little pep instead of gray plastic.
he has learned from flops like the tata nano that customers in emerging markets expect decent cars even for such spot prices. "After all, this is the most expensive purchase you will ever make in your life", van den acker is convinced. "They want to be rightly proud of this." if you want to compete with bicycles and mopeds on the one hand and run-down used cars on the other, you have to offer your customers something, he is convinced.
Luxury like no other
Where competitors such as the suzuki alto or the tata nano are poor on wheels, the kwid shines with pep instead of gray plastic and bare sheet metal. Although it also has a few uncovered screws in the trunk, the seats are thin and the plastic inexpensive. The gearbox needs a bit of sensitivity, steering and brakes require vision, the handling is at best arbitrary and with three-cylinder engines with 0.8 liters displacement and 54 hp or 1.0 liters and 68 hp you can’t really be in a hurry, which is illusory in Indian traffic anyway. But all in all, there is nothing to criticize about the car.
For salespeople, the kwid is a real godsend.
With the most fuel-efficient combustion engine in all of india, the kwid is one of the leaders in terms of technology. And the design is beyond all doubt: from the outside, the four-door car on its off-road stilts looks no less charming than a european twingo that has been parked next to a captur for too long. And inside, it surprises the four reasonably comfortable passengers with a level of luxury that no other manufacturer in this segment can match.
Behind the steering wheel – mounted on the right, of course – there’s a digital cockpit with huge illuminated displays, in the center console there’s a large touchscreen framed by piano lacquer, complete with navigation, bluetooth and USB connection, and the seats are sewn with red hems: "at the latest, that’s when customers are blown away. You don’t even see that in a mercedes", says salesman pavithran. And the french company has even added an automatic to its program.
Many have tried it
The actually unadorned car seems to electrify the kids.
Many manufacturers have tried to make such a cheap car, but so far none of them has succeeded. And renault also had to go new ways for this, says van den acker: unlike dacia, the french did not push the price of the kwid down to such a low level by using old platforms and discarded engines. On the contrary, the kwid is the first car to use a brand-new platform designed specifically for vehicle projects in emerging markets. Because most of the development work was done in india, 98 percent of the suppliers came from the region, and the project manager had an extra six months to haggle with suppliers over the best price, the development budget was less than half that of the clio& co.
With the kwid, renault has not only annoyed top dogs like tata or suzuki, who have so far set the tone for cheap cars alone. The booming model is also a resounding slap in the face for the european competition – first and foremost for VW. Because although the people of lower saxony pride themselves on their engineering skills, or perhaps because of them, they simply can’t produce such a cheap car, even though they’ve been working on it for years. But all previous attempts have failed. The fox and up small cars were so elaborately designed that it was impossible to convert them back into cheap cars. And in the cooperation with suzuki, the germans were so stubborn that the partnership collapsed before a sensible car could emerge.
New start at VW
But because a budget car of less than $5,000 is essential for opening up large countries with underdeveloped car markets, and because according to estimates by automotive economist ferdinand dudenhoffer, a manufacturer without a cheap car would lose out on 15 percent of the world market, VW has now – once again – taken a new approach and initiated a cooperation with tata. And to make sure that this time it actually works, it’s not the technology-loving engineers in wolfsburg who are calling the shots. On the VW side, skoda, a subsidiary known for its pragmatic solutions, is in the driver’s seat.
Even if the "memorandum of understanding" is not signed the partnership will be formed in the course of the year and joint development work can begin soon, it will probably take at least three, more likely four, years before the wolfsburegr can "kwiddung" the french present for your kwid and get involved in this race. By then, however, the kwid had long since conquered the world. After the successful start in india, Renault is now also building and selling the cheap peck in south america and south africa. men like trident salesman pavithran in bangalore know what that means: "the quiet days will probably soon be over for colleagues there."