Pusan, Aug. 31: For Renault, the road to the top echelon of the global car business runs through this bustling South Korean port and a gritty factory town in Romania.
Fresh from successfully turning Nissan around, Renault is trying its resuscitative magic on two more struggling carmakers far afield from its base in France.
The projects are smaller than Nissan, and Renault is trying them when the global economic climate is cooler and more unsettled. The hope in each project is that by introducing small new sedans tailored to appeal to modestly middle-class local buyers, Renault can transform distressed car plants into money-spinners.
The first of these new machines, the compact SM3, is being built here, and it will come to market in September. Renault is counting on the car to make it a serious competitor in the crowded, import-resistant South Korean market, where the previous owner of the plant, the Samsung Group, failed.
In Romania, Renault is renovating a dilapidated Communist-era plant in Pitesti, northwest of Bucharest, to produce a subcompact known for now as the X90; it will be the country’s first new car model in decades.
Both projects are significant gambles for Renault. It bought a 51 percent stake in Dacia, the Romanian carmaker, for $ 50 million in 1999 and later raised its interest to 93 per cent, and it has spent $ 240 million so far to revamp the plant for the planned introduction of the X90 in 2004.