1. Can you begin by telling us a little about yourself and your experience in the automotive industry?
I was born and raised in France where I graduated from the Sciences Po Paris university with a master’s in finance. I started my career with Renault ten years ago as a financial controller at the division of international operations for the North Africa region. In 2015, I joined the African region, as MD with responsibility for 35 countries, including key markets such as South Africa, Tunisia, Ivory Coast and Nigeria. Currently, I manage Renault activities across the region. The territory spans over GCC countries, Levant, Egypt and Iraq.
2. Can you tell us a little more about Renault’s range of vehicles in the region, especially in the UAE? Which are your most popular models and why?
We saw a substantial rise in sales in H1, which in part, was thanks to the introduction of new models to the Renault Middle East product line-up. In particular, Renault’s executive saloon, the Talisman and SUV model, the Koleos, have proven and are expected to continue to be popular with Middle Eastern customers.
The Talisman, blends elegant design flair with a sporty edge to deliver a truly special driving experience. Thanks to its MultiSense® driving system, motorists can tailor their premium driving experience to suit their mood and keeping all occupants protected on the road is a suite of intuitive high-tech accessories.
The Koleos SUV is designed to take on any adventure thrown at it. Its imposing athletic stance gives it a robust yet premium look, inside there’s a feeling of well-being thanks to an ergonomically designed interior and an array of innovative driver aids to make journeys as comfortable and safe as possible. Reiterating this point, the Renault Koleos has recently received a five-star rating in safety tests administered by the independent organisation Euro NCAP, one of the industry’s most rigorous tests of vehicle safety. The model, which was also named ‘Best Sub Compact SUV’ at the Middle East Car of the Year Awards earlier this year, passed the new protocol of 2016 Euro NCAP tests with flying colours, highlighting Renault’s commitment to safety on the roads and cementing the Koleos as the ideal family SUV.
The Renault ZOE long range has just arrived in the Middle East and we have high expectations for the model. With its new Z.E battery, the new model has the longest driving range of any mass-market electric vehicle with a record NEDC Range of 400km, which means 300km in real driving conditions. This will remove a big barrier in terms of daily usage and open a new scope for EV business development in the Middle East. The Renault ZOE will become the new benchmark in the Middle East market in terms of affordable electric vehicles and set the ultimate statement that electric vehicles are here to stay.
3. Renault was the first to launch an all-electric vehicle in the UAE. In view of the recent perks that the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy announced for owners of UAE, does this give you an advantage?
The announcement of the new initiatives, comes at an important time for Renault. We have recently announced the new ZOE long range model in the Middle East which now has the longest range of any mass-market electric vehicle available on-sale today.
We have also announced a new strategic plan which will cement Renault’s reputation as EV trailblazers in the region.
We have pledged to launch eight new zero-emission electric vehicles by 2022. These announcements are significant steps in supporting the ‘Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050’ which envisions Dubai having the lowest carbon footprint in the world by 2050.
As the first automotive company to launch a 100% electric car in the UAE, and with further EV vehicles set to arrive in the region over the coming years, the new initiatives will strengthen Renault’s ability to support the movement for a greener Middle East.
4. Dubai serves as a hub for re-export to other countries in the Middle East and in Africa. What importance does this aspect have from a marketing perspective?
Dubai has undoubtedly become major hub for trade and export in general, its location makes it very suitable to export to most Middle Eastern countries and even North Africa, this facilitates our distribution in the region. From a marketing perspective, having vehicles re-exported from country that’s already in the Middle East serve for less expenditure in terms of logistics, this makes the distribution process more central and more controlled in terms of marketing operations.
5. How has the alliance with Mitsubishi and Nissan affected your sales and image in the Middle East?
The alliance is the number one automotive group in the world, selling the largest volume of vehicles in nearly 200 countries. Being part of such an alliance gives us access to shared resources and expertise which strengthens our position. In July, Groupe Renault posted its best first half-year global sales in the company’s history with a growth of +10.4 percent. Our global market share is now 4.1%, – up +0.3 points on last year. Last month, the Alliance, made an important announcement which will see Renault soar to new heights in an exciting new era for the brand. The new strategic plan from the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance is expected to result in sales exceeding 14 million units per year by 2022. The alliance is the industry leader in zero-emission vehicles and as the original pioneer and global leader in EV, our aim here at Renault, is to remain the world’s number one provider of mainstream, mass market, affordable electric vehicles.
For Renault, as part of the world’s largest automotive alliance we can leverage the resources available to us to help support these major growth plans. Renault will benefit from the Group’s synergies and economies of scale, as well as shared R&D investments and technologies. Under ‘Alliance 2022’ 80% of our vehicles will be produced on common platforms.
6. Which segment accounts for higher sales in this region – SUVs or sedans? And why?
Traditionally in this region, sedans are the best sellers. However, it has changed quite fast over the past years, with SUV’s becoming more and more popular, especially in the retail channel. This trend is less visible in countries like KSA, but there is no doubt that we will have the same evolution on the long run.
With Duster, a proper 4×4 from B segment, Captur, an urban design cross-over, and now Koleos, a robust premium look SUV, we have the right line-up to follow this trend.
7. Does Renault have any marketing partnerships in the region? What are they?
We will be announcing a very exciting partnership next month. Watch this space for further information!
8. Due to the UAE’s strategic location and import policies, customers are spoilt for choice when it comes to vehicles of different types and prices. As a customer, what makes Renault different from the numerous other brands that are available in the UAE market?
We believe the strongest brands make a clear promise to their customers and deliver it consistently through the whole brand experience, over a sustained period of time. Our promise is “Passion for life, French Design and Easy Life”. “French Design” means sensual and warm design, inside and out. It also means quality: huge efforts are made to ensure that our European cars have been adapted for local conditions. All of our products are tested during the height of the summer here in the GCC to ensure they measure up against the toughest conditions. “Easy life” means that we want to make the experience of our customers easier, through the customer journey, the services and the features of the car.
9. What impact do you think the introduction of VAT will have on automobile sales in the region? How is Renault preparing for this measure?
Actually, we are not convinced that the VAT will have a significant impact on sales in the region. Even in the situation of a sales acceleration just before the introduction, no doubt that we will face a drop a few months after.
10. Many automotive manufacturers and even technology companies like Ford, Google and Apple are working on self-driving cars. What progress has Renault made in this regard?
Renault currently offers advanced driver assistance systems on its vehicles. These Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) improve safety and act for the most part without human input, as is the case for automatic emergency braking (AEBS). They serve as a gateway to autonomous vehicles, even though they are initially only there to provide assistance to the driver, who remains in charge of the vehicle. Renault also revealed the SYMBIOZ at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, the SYMBIOZ is a self-driving concept that integrates into the home.
SYMBIOZ extends the vision of autonomous, electric and connected cars to a time when vehicles fully interact with connected homes, cities, other vehicles and road infrastructure and become even more personal in the travel, energy and entertainment preferences of people who use them.
11. One issue that has been a key concern is the wide availability of fake spare parts. What measures has Renault taken to ensure that customers have access to genuine spare parts?
We always recommend that our clients should buy Renault parts from our network of authorised dealers in the region. While buying fake parts may save money, it comes at a cost of people risking their lives if the part doesn’t fulfil its requirement properly. Our job is to educate our customers about the importance of buying genuine parts which ensure longevity of their vehicles and most importantly guarantees people’s safety.
12. The UAE has one of the highest rates for road accidents in the world. Can you tell us about any recent initiatives by Renault to promote awareness of road safety among motorists?
Actively improving the safety of our vehicles is a priority for Renault. The Renault Koleos was recently awarded a five-star Euro NCAP rating with results showing that the model achieved an impressive 90% score for adult occupant protection, 79% for children, 63% for pedestrians and 75% for safety assist. The Koleos is the fifth model in the Renault line up to receive the five-star Euro NCAP rating, following in the footsteps of the Captur, Megane, Talisman and ZOE. Our models benefit from Renault’s vast experience in the realm of safety.
13. How do you tackle the challenge of marketing your products when it comes to price sensitive customers?
Today, Renault has four types of customers. The first type comprises of families with reduced budgets, which is why they buy the Symbol or Duster models. The expectations of these customers are different – what they want is an excellent TCO (total cost of ownership) that should be extremely affordable to them. Above all, they look for excellent quality, excellent after-sales, affordable spare-parts and a very good residual value. The second category of Renault customers comprises opportunistic singles driven by value for money. These are the customers of not only Symbol and Duster, but also of Megane and Captur models. In addition, we’re targeting two other categories, namely, middle and upper-class customers who typically go for Talisman and Koleos cars. These two categories of customers are mostly made up of the local population. To conclude, we offer a wide range of models at different price points so there is something for everyone.
14. Where do you see potential for additional growth when it comes to the Middle East market?
In the Middle East, we have very bold ambitions to take the brand where it deserves to be. Renault’s popularity in the Middle East is growing – with sales in the region up by 33% over the past three years and market share up by 2.25pts. In particular, sales in the GCC have almost tripled over the past five years. We are currently the number one European brand in Saudi Arabia and we intend to work hard to make sure that we are number one across the entire Middle East.
At the moment, KSA and the UAE are the two biggest markets. KSA will continue to be a key market for Renault moving forward, especially since the Saudi Royal Decree announced that women will be allowed to drive. To celebrate this, Renault together with its distributor in KSA is giving away seven brand-new cars to the first seven Saudi females to visit one of Renault’s showrooms in the Kingdom. The seven new female drivers must present their driving license at one of the seven Renault showrooms in the country for their chance to be handed the keys to a brand-new Renault Captur. The Renault Captur was the first Renault model to be designed by a gender balanced team, with almost half of the designers being women. Our entire line-up is well suited to the female audience and will appeal to Saudi Arabia’s new customer base as they get behind the wheel. This initiative is the first of many from Renault as we look to establish a long-term relationship with Saudi female drivers and grow our market share in KSA.
15. What are your views on the short-term and long-term outlook for the automotive industry in the region?
I think that in the years to come we will see a shift to more customers owning electric vehicles. We are already making significant steps towards this, following the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy announcing the incentives and strategies such as the ‘Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050’ which envisions Dubai having the lowest carbon footprint in the world by 2050.
As the pioneers in electric mobility in the Middle East and the market leader for electric vehicles in Europe, we intend to continue to lead the way in developing electric vehicle solutions in the region. With the much-anticipated introduction of the ZOE Long Range, and with further EV vehicles set to arrive in the region over the coming years, we are looking forward to starting the electric revolution in the Middle East.
16. If there is just one single thing about Renault that you would like our readers to remember, what would that be?
Renault has undergone a remarkable regeneration over the last 12 months, having completely renewed the product line-up, replacing old models with new ones and introducing products into brand new segments for the marque.
Renault now offers the best mix of design and easy-to-use technology, tested and approved in the region.
Our promise is “Passion for life, French Design and Easy Life”
Manju Mathew, an MBA in marketing, completed publisher training courses from the Oxford Brookes University and New York University. She started with marketing and PR roles before moving on to her current position as a full time writer. Currently living in Dubai, her life as an expat has sharpened her observation skills and flair for writing. She enjoys writing about luxury cars like Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc even if she can only dream of owning them.
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