Renault S.A. is a French vehicle manufacturer producing cars, vans, buses, tractors, and trucks. The company is well known for numerous revolutionary designs and security technologies.
When its cars were exported to the United States during the 1950s and 1960s, the name was commonly mispronounced as "Ren-ALT" to and by the American public, and the Anglicised pronunciation continues in common usage, though the original French has gained significant ground over recent years. In the United Kingdom it is pronounced "REN-o". The French pronunciation is closer to "Ruh-No".
Producing cars since late 1898, the Renault corporation was founded in 1899 as Société Renault Frères by Louis Renault, his brothers Marcel and Fernand, and his friend Thomas Evert. Louis was a bright, aspiring young engineer who had already designed and built several models before teaming up with his brothers, who had honed their business skills working for their father's textiles firm; Louis handled design and production, Marcel & Fernand handled company management.
The first Renault car, the Renault Voiturette 1CV was sold to a friend of Louis' father after giving him a test ride in December 24, 1898. The client was so impressed with the way the tiny car ran that he bought it.
The brothers immediately recognized the publicity that could be obtained for their vehicles by participation in motor racing and Renault made itself known through achieving instant success in the first city-to-city races held in France, resulting in rapid expansion for the company. Both Louis and Marcel Renault raced company vehicles, but Marcel was killed in an accident during the 1903 Paris-Madrid race. Although Louis Renault never raced again, his company remained very involved, including their Renault AK 90CV winning the first ever Grand Prix motor racing event in 1906. Louis was to take full control of the company as the only remaining brother in 1906 when Fernand retired for health reasons.
The Renault reputation for innovation was fostered from very early on. In 1899, Renault launched the first production sedan car as well as patenting the first turbocharger. At the time, cars were very much luxury items, and the price of the smallest Renaults available being 3000 francs reflected this; an amount it would take ten years for the average worker at the time to earn. As well as cars, Renault manufactured taxis, buses and commercial cargo vehicles in the pre-war years, and during World War I (1914 - 1918) branched out into ammunition, military airplanes and vehicles such as the revolutionary Renault FT-17 tank. Renault became the world's leading manufacturer of airplane engines, and the success of the company's military designs were such that Renault himself was honored by the Allies for his company's contributions to their victory. By the end of the war, Renault was the number one private manufacturer in France.
Between the two world wars, Louis Renault enlarged the scope of his company, producing agricultural and industrial machinery. However, Renault struggled to compete with the increasingly popular small, affordable "people's cars", while problems with the stock market and the workforce also adversely affected the company's growth. Renault also had to a find a way to distribute its vehicles more efficiently. In 1920, it signed one of its first distribution contracts with Gustave Gueudet, an entrepreneur from northern France.
The pre-First World War cars had a distinctive front shape caused by positioning the radiator behind the engine to give a so called "coalscuttle" bonnet. This continued through the 1920s and it was not until 1930 that all models had the radiator at the front.
During World War II, Louis Renault's factories worked for Nazi Germany producing trucks with work on cars officially forbidden. He was, for this reason, arrested during the liberation of France in 1944 and died in prison before having prepared his defense. An autopsy later showed that his neck had been broken, suggesting that he was murdered. His industrial assets were seized by the provisional government of France. The Renault factories became a public industry (known as Régie Nationale des Usines Renault) under the leadership of Pierre Lefaucheux.
The company's compact and economical Renault 5 model, launched in 1972, was another success, particularly in the wake of the 1973 energy crisis. The 5 remained in production until 1984 when it was replaced by the Super5. The formula was much the same however, and the Super5 inherited its styling lines from its father. Endangered like all of the motor industry by the energy crisis, during the mid seventies the already expansive company diversified further into other industries and continued to expand globally, including into South East Asia. The energy crisis also provoked Renault's attempt to reconquer the North American market; despite the Dauphine's success in the United States in the late 1950s, and an unsuccessful car-assembly project in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Québec, (1964-1972), Renault had virtually disappeared from North America by the 1970s.
However, in the early part of the decade, when the energy crisis-hit continent required smaller, more economical cars, Renault began to make plans to return through a collaborative partnership with the American manufacturer American Motors Corporation (AMC). From 1962 to 1967, Renault assembled Completely Knocked Down (CKD) kits of the Rambler Classic sedans in its factory in Belgium. Renault did not have large or luxury cars in its product line and the "Rambler Renault" was aimed as an alternative to the Mercedes-Benz "Fintail" cars. Similar to the fate of some of these Mercedes cars at the time, many of these "American" Renaults finished their life working as taxis. Later, Renault would continue to make and sell a hybrid of AMC's Rambler American and Rambler Classic called the Renault Torino in Argentina (sold through IKA-Renault). Renault partnered with AMC on other projects, such as development of a rotary concept engine in the late 60s, and would eventually own AMC in 1980.
This was one of a series of collaborative ventures undertaken by Renault in the late 1960s and 1970s, as the company established subsidiaries in Eastern Europe, most notably Dacia in Romania, and South America (many of which remain active to the present day) and forged technological cooperation agreements with Volvo and Peugeot (for instance, for the development of the PRV V6 engine, which was used in Renault 30, Peugeot 604, and Volvo 260 in the late 1970s.).
In the mid 1960s an Australian arm, Renault Australia, was setup in Heidelberg, Melbourne, which would close in 1981. Interestingly Renault Australia did not just concentrate on Renaults, they also built and marketed Peugeots as well.
* 1898 - Louis Renault founded Renault
* 1903 - Marcel Renault dies in a car accident
* 1943 - The Renault factory in Billancourt is attacked by the German army
* 1944 - Louis Renault dies
* 1966 - Taking the idea from the Austin A40 Farina, the first hatchback in the world, the Renault 16 was developed.
* 1978 - The first turbo powered subcompact, the Renault 5 Turbo is presented.
* 1979 to 1987, Renault held majority ownership in the American Motors Corporation (AMC), which it sold to Chrysler Corporation in March 1987.
* 1986 - On April 9 the Government of France ruled against the privatization of Renault.
* 1992 - Louis Schweitzer becomes president of Renault group.
* 1996 - The company was privatized to create Renault S.A.
* 1999 - Renault purchased a 36.8 percent equity stake in Nissan the troubled Japanese car maker, injecting $3.5 billion to obtain effective control of the company under Japanese law. Renault vice-president, Carlos Ghosn was parachuted in to turn round the ailing firm. Nissan also owns 15% of Renault in turn
* 2001 - Renault sold its industrial vehicle subdivision (Renault Véhicules Industriels) to Volvo, which renamed it Renault Trucks in 2002.
* 2002 - Benetton Formula One team formally becomes Renault F1, Renault increases its stake in Nissan to 44.4 percent.
* 2004 - The Renault factory in Billancourt is demolished.
* 2005 - Carlos Ghosn becomes president.
* Twingo (Launched 1992)
* Modus (Launched 2004)
* Clio II (Supermini with hatchback and sedan body styles, launched 1998)
* Clio III (Lutécia III in Japan, launched 2005)
* Kangoo (Launched 1998)
* Trafic (Launched 2003)
* Mégane II (SW, CC, Saloon, Hatch 3 and 5 doors, launched 2002)
* Scénic II (Launched 2003)
* Grand Scénic (Launched 2003)
* Laguna II (Hatchback & Estate, launched 2000)
* Espace IV (& Grand Espace, launched 2002)
* Vel Satis (Launched 2002)