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Renault Type B   (1900)

There is certain likeness between the history of this large French motor industry and that of other industrial firms such as Ford, Fiat or even Benz. All of them have been created thanks to the initiative and genius of a man.

Louis Renault was born in February 1877, in the heart of the Parisian bourgeoisie. He was the youngest of five children (two sisters and two brothers). His father made his fortune in the trade of fabrics and buttons and his mother was the daughter of wealthy merchants. He had an early passion for mechanics and new techniques. This passion drove him to neglect his studies and spend most of his time in the workshop where Léon Serpollet used to build his steam cars. The Renaults had a second home in Billancourt, near Paris. This what where he used the tool shed as his first workshop. There, he tinkered with an old Panhard engine until the age of 14. Louis Renault would turn out to be intuitive and pragmatic.

After his military service, with the help of a regiment comrade, he tinkered his De Dion-Bouon cycle into a four-wheeled small car and equipped it with an invention of his own: a universal jointed propeller shaft which included a three-gear box plus a reverse, with the third gear in direct drive. The chains and belts which had been used until then immediately became old-fashioned; he would patent the principle in 1899.

Renault Type C  concept (1900)

On 24 December 1898, he celebrated New Year’s eve with his friends. Sure of his piece of engineering, he bet that his little car could drive up the slope of Lépic street in Montmartre. At first incredulous, his friends eventually yielded to facts. Not only did Louis win his bet but pocketed, that night, his first 12 definite orders accompanied with deposits. Thus, Louis Renault decided to become an industrial car manufacturer. Like all geniuses, he lacked money. His two brothers, Marcel et Fernand who carefully ran the father’s firm, created Renault Frères company in 1899 with a capital of 60,000 gold francs excluding their genius young brother as a partner. Marcel dealt with the administrative part, leaving Louis free to completely dedicate himself to the conception and building of cars. Already at the end of the year, 71 four-wheeled cycles had come out of the factory. Another innovation of that period was the first sedan ever built. Though it was an idea of Louis Renault, the car was built by famous coachbuilder Labourdette who adapted a carriage to the automobile’s requirements.

Since the beginning of their activity, the Renault brothers had fully understood that the best propaganda was to participate in car races. Since starting in the Paris-Trouville in 1899, they would accumulate victories in most of the town-to-town races at that time such as Paris-Bordeaux, Paris-Ostend, Paris-Berlin and above all a glorious Paris-Vienna that would make Marcel’s victory complete in 1902. It should be noted that in their sector, the Renaults had no competitors.

The race Paris-Toulouse, for example, brought in orders of 350 small cars.

Renault Type D  concept (1901)

The small cars were sold at 3,000 gold francs, the equivalent of an average ten-year salary. The make developed rapidly and the workshops expanded by the river Seine. In 1902, they already covered 7,500 sq. m. The catalogue carried various models. That same year, Louis presented the first Renault engine, a 4-cylinder 24 hp. He also patented the first system of an over fueled engine.

With the Paris-Madrid race in 1903, the first sportive cycle of Renault industry tragically ended with a dozen people dead among whom was Marcel Renault who died after going off the track near Couhé-Verac.

Shocked by his brother’s death, Louis Renault definitively gave up competition and entrusted the task of championing the colors of the make to experimented drivers not only in France but also in North Africa, the United States, Cuba, South America… He concentrated his energy on his company and, with Fernand, started to develop Renault Frères’ commercial network and created the first subsidiaries abroad —in England, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Spain and the United States. The continuing technical innovations adopted by Louis Renault contributed to the expansion of the firm : plugs that could be dismantled, hydraulic shock absorbers, compressed gas starting device that could be activated from the driver’s seat…

Renault Type G ,Type H,Type J concept (1901)

The year 1905 constituted a watershed in the history of the firm: it received its first order of 250 taxi cabs. The installations were reorganized and the manufacturing, thus, passed from craft industry to mass production. Renault became the first French car manufacturer. In two years, 1,500 Renault taxi cabs, equipped with a first rudimentary taximeter, swarmed into the streets of the French capital. Renault cabs would be exported as far away as New York and Buenos Aires.

In 1906, Louis Renault was decorated with the Legion of Honor and, in 1908, he was the only person to run the company when Fernand retired for health reasons. Thus was born the firm “Louis Renault”.

In 1908, the firm employed 2,600 persons and manufactured 4,600 cars a year. The cars became more and more powerful. The firm also manufactured vans, small omnibuses, generating sets …. But it was already famous in a new field: aviation. Two years earlier, Louis Renault had been the first car manufacturer to branch out to aeronautics. Today, his engines beat all records in the aviation industry.


Renault Type BX  concept (1910)

The factory expanded in a tangle of workshops on about 136,000 sq.m.

In 1913, Louis Renault visited Ford’s production lines and found in Taylorism a decisive advantage for it allowed to produce more kilos at the same cost per hour. When applied to Renault’s car industry, rates of production soon became “infernal”. The employees did not welcome the new working method, and for the first time Louis Renault was faced with strikes.

The factory employed 5,200 persons and manufactured 10,000 cars a year. Many men were called to serve in the war and would be replaced by their wives.

Renault Type BY ,Type BM,Type BF,Type CD concept (1910)

From the onset of the war, the production line had been disrupted. Only some 200 non mobilized workers out of a staff of 4,500 people remained at the factory (working on cars). The factories in Billancourt were partially closed from August 1st to the end of September 1914, after which they were mainly specializing in war manufactures. Renault factories were reinstalled in Rochet-Schneider workshops in Lyon until the end of the war.

On 2 September 1914, General Maunoury asked for reinforcements with the utmost urgency. Galmlieni submitted the request to Joffre who granted an absolute priority to Maunoury. The latter decided to send 6,000 men up to the front. From the night of September 6 until the evening of September 7, 1,300 Renault taxi cabs (AG-1 type), rapidly and without fatigue, transported troops who would win the battle of La Marne. As the cabs returned the next day, taximeters that charged for a normal journey were calculated: 70,000 francs of that time, totally paid by the State.

Renault factories reconverted to military production and would manufacture, in four years, impressive quantities of all kinds of equipment. Shells and shrapnel (up to 6,000 a day), trucks (up to 300 a month), automatic machine guns, military cars, aircraft engines from 80hp to 450hp (up to 600 450hp engines a month), aircrafts (Type AR in 1916, up to 100 a month), mountain tractors (60 a month), pieces and barrels of riffles (1,200 riffles a day), artillery equipment and tanks (up to 300 a month).

Renault Type BK  concept (1910)

In 1917, at last, Louis Renault designed the first light machine gunner tank, the famous FT 17 known as « tank of the victory ».


Renault Type GS ,Type IG concept (1920)

While the war had the effect of an interruption of time in Europe, the United States made progress and entered the era of consumption. Like the motor industry in England 20 years before, motor development in France was slowed down by taxes relating to luxury goods. Moreover, Taylorism and mass production developed the American industry significantly and car manufacturing became a large sector there.

But Louis had at his disposal first-rated installations that extended on 70 acres and also included the famous Séguin island, on the river Seine.

After the first crisis that harshly affected the world economy in 1920-1921, Louis Renault got reorganized : he created the Anonymous Society of the Renault factories (SAUR) and took a bank as a partner in his capital. The year 1922 would be that of the greatest innovations, particularly for the big Renault cars from 18hp to 40hp that were equipped with brakes on all four wheels.

Renault Type HF ,Type IR,Type JD concept (1921)

From that year on, Renault would purchase or replace by himself the upstream suppliers until he got his own foundries, forges, sand pits, forest domain, sawmill…

« Independent » was the keyword.

The year 1922 was also the beginning of a harsh competition between Louis Renault and André Citroën that would last until the death of the latter in 1935. Citroën was the first manufacturer to use massive advertisement and introduce selling on credit, with Renault following close behind. Renault had his own taxi cabs company, Citroën would also have one; one created an autobuses company, the other did the same. To counter the famous Citroën cruises, Renault organized a solo crossing of Africa (from Oran to Cape Town) in a 10 hp car equipped with tracks and double wheels. Then, lieutenant Georges Estienne did a solo crossing of the Sahara desert in a 6 hp standard car. The trek in South America was put aside due to the necessity of replacing the motor by a Ford one during the tour.

Renault Type HG ,Type IQ concept (1921)

The first chain of the factory started in 1922 and the construction of the factory, on lands purchased plot by plot (excepted one) from their owners, was complete.

The depreciation of the franc in 1922 gave the illusion of an improvement of the economy. But it was the beginning of the ”crazy years” that broke radically with the past. Women got modernized and men started to consume. Renault took advantage of this social change to broaden his range and exported up to 30% of his production at that time.

It was in 1925, the year preceding a new wave of cars, that the new diamond-shaped badge appeared. The series of new cars started with the Monasix in 1927, a 6-cylinder (1,476 cm3) that used the chassis of the 6 hp. The engine was still a 6 cylinder one for the Vivasix in 1927 (3,180 cm3), the Monastella (1,476 cm3), the Vivastella (3,180 cm3) in 1928 and the Primastella (3,180 cm3) in 1932. An automatic clutch was available as an optional extra for the latter.

Renault Type II  concept (1922)

Two new factories were opened (Belgium in 1926 and England in 1927) to compensate for those that had closed down in Russia.

In 1926, the government took rehabilitation measures for the franc that would stop exportations. As a result of a weak industry in the face of the powerful American industry that extended to Europe, small European manufacturers disappeared.

Omnipresent on land, in the air and on water, Renault cars kept on beating record after record (speed, nonstop journey, consumption).

Renault Type JM  concept (1922)

In the field of luxury cars, the 40 hp was replaced in 1928 by the first Renault equipped with a 8-cylinder engine (7,125 cm3) and a radiator at the front. A sportive version of the Reinastella, the Reinasport, was created in 1931.

The progress of the mechanization, the introduction of production lines and the multiplication of machines made the worker interchangeable and less necessary. Behind the American society and badly organized, trade unions were under employers’ pressure and could not consider any salary claim. The working conditions deteriorated at the dawn of a new financial crisis.

In 1929, the small Renault empire would possess about thirty subsidiaries abroad and new implantations in the French colonial empire, in Africa and in the Far East. The make was present in 49 countries, on all the continents, except Oceania. Let’s not forget that despite this feat, 85% of the world motor production was American.

Renault Type JS  concept (1922)

On 24 October 1929, the stock-exchange bubble exploded with a shock wave that would spread all over the world and send millions of people in the streets and place Hitler at the head of Germany four years later.


Renault Type KZ 4 ,Type KZ 5 concept (1930)

Since the beginning of the 1929 crisis which took the car manufacturers into an infernal spiral, the ferments of the workers’ rebellion got fueled by salary cuts and unemployment.

The great depression influenced the American motor industry which internationalized and streamlined its production and distribution after mass lay-offs. Thus, it produced at a lower cost and represented at that time 89% of the world output.

In Europe, the states understood the importance of the motor industry and would totally back on protectionism by overtaxing imported cars.

Renault Vivasix ,Vivastella concept (1930)

Renault, also imposed an effort on productivity to its workers by dismissing a great part of them and reducing the wages of those remaining, which would provoke “staggering strikes”.

Louis Renault widened the range of the company by starting the manufacturing of public transportation vehicles and developed its aeronautic activities by purchasing Caudron. He became, thus, a partner in the capital of “Air France” and participating in the creation of “Air Bleu” for the air mail transportation in France.

For the first time, the European manufacturers were no longer lagging behind the Americans for they reached a turning point when they understood that their survival depended on the car democratization and therefore bet on economical compact cars (Fiat 500, VW Coccinelle). Despite the pressure put on them by the government, Renault, Citroën and Peugeot did not reach an agreement over a common project for a small 5 hp car (that project would lead to the Peugeot 202). It was only after the war that popular cars were created in France.

Renault Nervastella  concept (1930)

After giving up the manufacturing of the Primastella and Reinastella, the 6 and 8-cylinder range would be represented in 1934 by the Viva Grand Sport (4 liters) and the Nervastella Grand Sport (5.4 liters), which was victorious at the car rally in Monte Carlo and at the race Liège-Roma-Liège in 1935. These two models of engines started the era of the engine 85 (85 representing the bore of the engine in mm) which would last 20 years.

As for the 4-cylinder vehicles, important sector of Renault, there were the Primaquatre (1931), the 8 hp Monaquatre and the 11 hp Vivaquatre. The Celtaquatre of 1935 could also be included in that range.

In 1935, when André Citroën died, the French government put Louis Renault under pressure to manage Citroën factories in order to merge the two companies. After Renault’s refusal, Michelin took control of the collapsing industrial unit.

Renault Primaquatre ,Monaquatre concept (1931)

Measures for deflation increased the social tension and trade unions, reinforced since 1929, rose up against the employers. In Billancourt, two people would be killed after the police forces’ intervention.

In 1935, France counted over 500 000 unemployed people, which caused the demand for cars and then its domestic production to drop. Moreover, export markets closed down one after another. Renault reduced, without any salary compensation, the working week time to 30 hours. The Social tension went up another notch when the Popular Front won the elections for the legislature in April 1936, which paralyzed all economic sectors. Louis Renault, unfortunately, was not a diplomatic man : he easily took refuge in silence. France’s greatest concentration of strikers would be in the Renault factories, which would become a symbol of the working class struggle in the country.

The industrial crisis of 1929 affected even the Popular Front and serious disorder put an end to the party. It had been necessary to produce at a lower cost and faster otherwise it was the end. Lots of managers in the industry (Hispano-Suiza, Delage at the top), tired and unable to handle the knout, would eventually give up.

Renault Nervahuit  concept (1931)

In 1936, Renault’s output would amount to 61,146 cars, a record. But the company would also record its first financial loss ever. The workshops of tanks were nationalized.

The small Renault was created in such a climate (in 1937): the Juvaquatre, equipped with a two-door bodywork devoid of a chassis and independent front wheels.

The SAUR was really in trouble and Louis Renault invoked the social legislations of 1936 (40-hour working week, paid leave, salary rises) which led to heavier social security contributions weighing on companies and the devaluation of the franc. The year 1937 would be disastrous on the financial level.

Renault Vivaquatre  concept (1932)

In 1938, the company streamlined its diversification and refocused on the motor industry. Aeronautical manufacturing was totally left to Caudron.

The Juvaquatre was not very popular and the production of Renault cars became inferior to that of Citroën and Peugeot. Renault found a way out in its production of industrial cars and, thus, kept being the first industrial group in France.

At the end of 1938, Renault’s employees occupied the factories. That occupation was followed by violent mobile guards’ interventions , mass arrests (accompanied with fines and jail sentences) and 1,868 dismissals.

Renault Monastella  concept (1932)

Meanwhile, peace was weakening and the invasion of Czechoslovakia led to another general mobilization in Europe. Since the onset of the 1929 crisis, Louis Renault had obstinately fought against everybody for his factories without communicating much and seeing nor fearing anything of the consequences of his behavior during the war. The factories had to run! An obsession that any manager of a company, whether big or small, involved in manufacturing feels intensely. The maintained activity also spared numerous workers from compulsory work.


Renault 4 cv  concept (1946)

The Minister of the Armament decided to send a controller to Billancourt. Louis Renault was disowned. Through the impetus given by the State, all of the manufacturers resumed armament activities like during the war. Citroën made shells, Peugeot mass-produced bomber fuselages and landing gears for interceptors and Renault dealt with tanks. But that boost was brutally stopped, two years later, when France lost the war in 1940. In May 1940, the Minister of the Armament sent Louis Renault on an assignment to the United States in order to negotiate the licensed manufacturing of tanks. That is where he heard about the capitulation of France.

Since the first days of June, the government under Daladier demanded that all car factories be evacuated. Citroën took refuge in Niort, Renault moved his installations from Boulogne-Billancourt by barges and Peugeot withdrew to his aeronautical factories in Bordeaux.

By the summer of 1940, the country was hardly recognizable. It seemed like it had gone back twenty years: harnessing and barouches reappeared. Even funny vehicles are created such as cab-bicycles, cars equipped with gas producer generators while electric cars (the “VLV” for example) were invented. Gas became a rationed, scarce product and most of the available cars were requisitioned by the German army. In order to move around, others had to get a pass.

Renault Juvaquatre break concept (1946)

French car manufacturers, put under supervision in 1943, were directly patronized by German firms (Daimler-Benz for Renault, Volkswagen for Peugeot...). Thus, refusing to obey the occupying forces meant laying thousands of workers off and risking to have one’s factory confiscated or closed down.

Now working for the German industry, French car factories would be subject to unceasing air attacks. Citroën was bombed three times, both by the Germans and the allies. Peugeot took refuge in Montbéliard, Berliet went from Lyons to Cannes, Mathis to the States where he created Mathis America and Bugatti from Molsheim. Renault would lose the most.

When they were not subject to bombs, the factories (which were supposed to produce for the Germans) were actually running slowly, due to the lack of prime materials and more particularly to the insufficient workforce. Lots of workers were either refugees, prisoners or deported to Germany within the framework of the service for compulsory work. Thus, in 1943, there were only seven manufacturers left compared with over forty before the war.

Renault 4 cv decouvrable concept (1948)

That did not impede a few engineers from working on the sly on a small car that would become the 4 hp. People say that Ms Louis Renault, wearing a mask, did drive the first 4 hp on the quays under the occupying army’s nose…

When France was liberated, Louis Renault did not particularly embody Collaboration in the view of French people —who had seen the Germans take control of the whole French industry— contrary to Pierre Laval, Admiral Darlan and a few others like Marcel Déat, Jacques Doriot and Joseph Darnand.

In the workers’ circle, Louis Renault was a merciless employer and a few of them would retaliate from the repression during the riots of 1938 by simply “getting rid of him” in Fresnes with the following accusation: ”trades with the enemy”. He died on 24 January 1944. His factory was confiscated then nationalized by an edict of 16 January 1945. It was then named national company of Renault factories. The nationalization occurred without any compensation, but Jean-Louis Renault, the only heir, would be allowed to keep part of the private possessions and would give up those directly related to the industry.

Renault Projet 108  concept (1949)

Pierre Lefaucheux, an engineer member of the Resistance, was ordered to re-boost the production and chose what to produce. That enthusiastic and energetic born leader rapidly imposed himself as an employer. He won a first decisive battle for the company’s future: as the new authorities of the State had decided that the factory would make only trucks, he managed to keep the authorization to manufacture private cars, as well. Pierre Lefaucheux was convinced that the 4 hp was the best solution to re-boost the motor industry. The 4 hp was presented in the first Show of Paris in 1946. The mass production of the car started the next year and would go on until 1961.

Pierre Bézier, an engineer for Renault, developed during his captivity the principle of automatic machines —introduced before the war by General Motors. He created the “transfer-machines” (able to rapidly make various different and consecutive manipulations of the same element) which gave an industrial impetus to Renault.

The situation in France kept being precarious and the galloping inflation provoked violent strikes from 1947 onwards. Renault again became the symbol of the trade unionists’ battle with all the economic problems that would cause.


Renault Colorale ,Prairie concept (1950)

The commercial success of the 4 hp was also accompanied by a sportive success: its elaborated versions permitted it to win lots of races. Moreover, that car would be the starting point for the manufacturing of the Alpines-Renault cars. In 1951, Pierre Lefaucheux decided to create a competition service that would later become Renault Sport.

Still under Pierre Lefaucheux’s leadership, a process of decentralization of the production was initiated which reached its climax in 1952. In the provinces, the firm purchased factories manufacturing ball bearings, electric railcars, repairing engines, sawmills, etc. As there was insufficient space in the factory in Billancourt, Lefaucheux also purchased premises, but more particularly pieces of land in order to build new sites. The factory in Flins (downstream of Paris) that manufactured the new model of the national company (the Frégate), was opened in 1952. Later on, a center of trials would be installed in Lardy, in the Paris area, and a mechanic factory in Cléon, close to Flins.

Renault also expanded abroad. The Belgian factory in Vilvorde resumed its activities, would soon expand and the English factory in Acton was purchased. The manufacturing of the 4 hp was already initiated in Ireland, in Australia, in India, in Mexico, in South Africa and would last until 1960 in Japan by Hino. Pierre Lefaucheux planned to position the national company on the colonial markets.

Renault Fregate  concept (1951)

At the end of 1954, the 500,000th 4 hp went out of the workshops, a record. The national company of Renault factories counted 51,000 people and represented 35% of the national production. Over the quarter of the turn-out was made abroad and the firm counted over 1,000 points of sale in foreign countries.

Unfortunately, Lefaucheux died in 1955 in a car accident. His position was taken over by Pierre Dreyfus who was the former-president of the firm since 1948.

Dreyfus’ first objective was restoring social peace. He wanted the first company of the Nation to be a model. In September 1955, he signed the first company agreement which had to ensure communication with trade unions, introduced the third week of paid leave, the payment of public holidays, supplementary pension and increased wages by 4%.

Renault 4CV 1063 concept (1951)

In 1955, Jean Claude Galtier became famous by winning the Mille Miglia with a Renault 4 hp (his family owned the first Renault car dealer of France which dated from before the first world conflict). Jean Claude Galtier won the race in the category 750 cm3. That victory was accompanied with a first rank in the performance rating. Those successes made a great fuss in France.

The merger of the manufacturers Latil and Somua with Renault trucks led to the creation of the Saviem, in competition with Berliet who had refused to sign an agreement with the national company.

Presented in 1956 to replace the 4 hp, the Dauphine was an evolution of the latter, of which it kept the mechanic conception.

Renault Fregate convertible concept (1951)

As a proof of its success, the 1,000,000th Dauphine would come out four years later. Dreyfus created the "chartering and transportation company" in order to convey the cars by boat through the Atlantic Ocean. In 1959, more Dauphine cars would be sold in the States than Volkswagen cars.


Renault 4  concept (1961)

The Americans did not follow the European way of manufacturing compact cars, instead they purchased firms during the interwar period which started to manufacture small cars, as well. Thus, the Americans imported those manufactured by their foreign subsidiaries.

Without a local partner, the distribution network which was set hastily by Renault, ran out of steam. Moreover, the quality of the Dauphine left much to be desired. Sales dropped and boats stayed alongside the quays in France. The crisis of 1960 would have serious financial and industrial consequences. Strikes occurred again as a consequence of 3,000 dismissals in France and in Belgium. That tension would end only at the end of 1962 with the implementation of the fourth week of paid leave and leave for seniority.

While the last 4 hp came out from the production lines and the Dauphine was on the decline, the Renault 4 was presented in September 1961. Equipped with five doors, the car was the first one with front-wheel drive built by Renault.

Renault Dauphine  concept (1961)

The next year, the Renault 8, equipped with 4 disc brakes, was launched.

In rallies, boosted by the motorization of the factory of Amédée Gordini (the mechanic "sorcerer" with whom Renault allied before purchasing his company in 1969), the Renault 8 Gordini won its first victory in 1964 at the Tour of Corsica and then made an outstanding career which would end in 1970. The Alpine, driver Jean Rédélé’s invention, took it over in rallies as well as on circuits and soon became legendary. These successes would contribute to Renault’s notoriety.

The State was the main shareholder of Renault. It did not re-capitalize the company which suffered various setbacks in the States. In order to maintain foreign growth, it would be necessary to rely on strong local partners. From that viewpoint, a first agreement was sketched in 1961 with AMC, the fourth American car manufacturer, but it would never be signed. The decolonization and conflicts in Indochina and in Algeria weakened the stability of the group. Renault multiplied international cooperations with factories, a few of which eventually became subsidiaries of the group. Financially paralyzed, Renault sold his shares in Willys Overland do Brazil to Ford in 1968. The Renault 12, sold along with that factory, would lead to the manufacturing of the Ford Corcel.

Renault 8  concept (1962)

Therefore, Pierre Dreyfus sought a European ally for the national company. Negotiations with Volkswagen were not brought to a successful conclusion. The agreement reached with Alfa Romeo in 1958 was also broken. But, eventually, in 1966, Renault concluded an agreement for a technical collaboration with Peugeot. It tended to limit the damage due to a wild competition and would become a three-partner cooperation (with Volvo) within the framework of the Franco-Swedish engine company.

In May 1968, after occupying factories during a 33-day strike, the workers obtained salary increases, a one-hour reduction of the working week and an agreement on the exercising of the trade-union right. At that time, over 16% of the 76,000 workers in the company were of foreign origins.


Renault 12 break concept (1970)

Renault started the new decade by manufacturing a series of outstanding new cars. The Renault 16 of 1966 represented an improvement of the range : its coachwork equipped with a fifth door turned out to be very functional. In 1971, spacious coupés of modern line 15 and 17, then eventually, in 1972, the small R5 were created. Being 3,5 meters long, the R5 was the smallest car ever built, apart from the first compact cars. Its limited dimensions and its exploitation economy resolved the two problems of the car manufacturing sector : traffic in town and energy crisis. The Renault 5 was successful on a European scale. In 1973, after the first oil crisis, the Renault 5 represented 60% of the firm’s production.

This first crisis occurred due to the Kippur War in October 1973: the price of the barrel tripled.

Renault increased the industrial diversification of its extra motor activities with the objective to generate 50% of the company’s turnover.


Renault 5 Turbo 2 concept (1980)

Bernard Vernier-Palliez then Bernard Hanon replaced Dreyfus. The renewal of the range sped up. In cooperation with Matra, the first car on the market to be built in one volume was launched in 1984. Its modular concept (the “Espace”) would gain wide spread acceptance.

Renault took a share in Volvo’s capital and concluded an agreement with AMC in the United States, of which it would soon take control. The trucks division, which absorbed Saviem then Berliet, became Renault Industrial Vehicles and got a share in the American Mack Trucks’ capital.

On the competition level, the introduction of turbo-compressed engines allowed it to win the 24-hour Le Mans race and participate in Formula One. This ambitious policy drove the company into a spiral of deficits that reached intolerable levels.

Renault RE20  concept (1980)

And again, the company managed by Georges Besse, refocused on car manufacturing activities to renew the range. Georges Besse was murdered on 17 November 1986. Raymond H. Lévy replaced him and continued to make changes in the company. Renault sold its share in AMC to Chrysler and closed down the historical site in Billancourt. In 1987, Renault registered a profit of 3,7 billion francs.

The launching of Japanese cars on the markets had intensified for a decade. These cars were simple but reliable. This principle was advertised for Mazda cars: one could see on TV a Mazda controller repeating incessantly ‘OK’. Renault established the “zero defect” principle and “the end of car corrosion”. The Renault 19 would be the first to meet theses challenges with 50% of its coachbody being treated against rust. Renault became the first make to be imported in Germany.

The models of the mid-1980s met the ecological demands which altered the technical characteristics and the conception of the products. The Renault cars would have to satisfy consumers’ needs in their daily activities i.e. become “cars to live with”.


Renault Clio Hatchback concept (1990)

The year 1990 was the beginning of the decade of manufacturers’ coming together.

Louis Schweitzer became the eighth manager of Renault in May 1992.

On 6 September 1993, Renault signed a merger project with Volvo. But Volvo’s shareholders feared the “French company” and had many prejudices : the extreme bad quality of French products, repeated strikes, the union extreme activities, the versatility of the successive governments…in short, the recurring word was ”extreme” and never in the right meaning.

Renault Laguna  concept (1990)

One year later, the capital was partially opened and in July 1996, the company was privatized.

The Formula One, which was an exceptional image medium, accompanied the company’s commercial development. As a motor firm, Renault won six world manufacturer titles between 1992 and 1997.


Renault Koleos  concept (2000)

On 27 March 1999, Renault got a 36,8% share in the capital of the Japanese manufacturer Nissan, then 44% in 2002 (Nissan had 15% of Renault’s capital). Nissan was not doing well. It should be noted that Asia went through a financial crisis three years before, which Korea for instance would have never survived without its American and Japanese partners’ backing.

Renault sent Carlos Ghosn to Japan in order to restructure Nissan. The results were unhoped-for. The “cost killer” made Nissan get out of the red unlike other Japanese manufacturers.

The Renault-Nissan group is now present on all the continents and aspires to become one of the very first actors in the world motor market.

Renault Laguna II concept (2001)

The internationalization of the group continues with the purchase of Samsung Motors (South Korea) and Dacia (Romania).

van Damme Stéphane

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