FRENCH AUTO MANUFACTURER RENAULT is set to unveil a one-tonne ute concept later this year, to eventually take on the wildly successful Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger and Nissan Navara.
To be based on partner Nissan’s upcoming D23 Navara, the as-yet unnamed utility will most likely surface in production guise sometime next year, with sales in Australia expected to commence later in 2016 or in 2017.
According to Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar, the French brand is extremely keen to see such a vehicle land Downunder, and is preparing for its arrival with a fast growing rural as well as urban dealer network.
“The business case is looking good, with Australia remaining on the agenda for a pick-up truck,” he told us at the Captur light SUV crossover launch in Melbourne.
“Australia, along with South East Asia, Latin America, Southern Europe, Africa and Middle East are all huge potential markets for it... and as a generalist brand, a pick-up truck is something that represents a huge opportunity for Renault.”
Much is still shrouded about what the French-branded truck will look like, though it is understood that Renault’s head of design, Laurens van den Acker, has an acute understanding of the pick-up aesthetic following his long stint working as a stylist in North America.
Leveraging the Renault-Nissan Alliance parts-bin availability, the new pick-up will most likely mirror its rivals in offering a range of two-door single-cab and four-door dual-cab body styles. For the record, the D23 Navara will come to Australia later this year in Single Cab, King Cab (two-door) and Double Cab (four-door) versions, in either rear-drive (4x2) or four-wheel drive (4x4) iterations.
4x4 Australia expects that everything forward of the A-pillars will feature unique Renault styling and panels, meaning from the doors back, the French and Japanese badged vehicles will be virtually identical. However, the Renault interior might also come in for a makeover to keep it looking more on-brand than the Nissan’s cabin can.
Everything else will most likely be shared, including the separate chassis construction, double wishbone front end and, in all probability, the new Navara’s segment-leading coil spring rear suspension, available as an option in lieu of leaf springs on upper-spec versions.
Speculation suggests that the all-new YS23 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine will be part of the French game plan – in the next Navara it comes in either 120kW/403Nm single-turbo or 140kW/450Nm twin-turbo guises.
“The pick-up has the potential to become a core model and represent a good percentage of our sales. It’s a natural fit, and a strong indication of what we’re building for our future,” said Hocevar.
With 8285 Volkswagon Amaroks finding homes in Australia last year, and the Toyota Hi-Lux, Ranger and Mitsubishi Triton coming in fourth, sixth and seventh for overall vehicle sales with 38,126, 26,619 and 24,256 units shifted respectively, there are few stronger segments for Renault to push into.
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