x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Renault tries to flag down taxi deals

Never hailed a Renault taxi? That could be set to change in the GCC.

The sale of cars to taxi and rental companies is a huge market for manufacturers in the UAE.Paulo Vecina / The National
The sale of cars to taxi and rental companies is a huge market for manufacturers in the UAE.Paulo Vecina / The National

Renault taxis in Abu Dhabi may become a reality.

Sales of the cars have accelerated across the Emirates this year, prompting the French manufacturer to target taxi fleets and car rental companies.

In the first four months of this year, sales of Renaults increased 250 per cent to 2,700 in the GCC compared with the same period last year. In the UAE sales increased 75 per cent in the first four months of this year.

Mustansir Lakdawala, the managing director of Renault GCC, said the company was negotiating with taxi and rental companies about providing fleets of cars in the UAE.

"We are working with the taxi companies and so we will have a positive result to announce," said Mr Lakdawala. "We have just launched the Safrane, which is the competition to the [Toyota] Camry and [Nissan] Ultima."

Having garnered a strong reputation in the Emirates for providing reliable cars, both Nissan and Toyota have a firm grip on the taxi fleet and commercial market for leasing.

The sale of cars to taxi and rental companies in the UAE is a huge market for manufacturers, and reliability is crucial because the cars have to endure long hours on the road.

Korean manufacturers such as Hyundai have taken some market share in recent years and Renault now aims to achieve similar success.

"No European brand forms a large part of the total industry volume, so in terms of that fact, our growth is huge and the acceptability of the brand has been exciting for us," said Mr Lakdawala.

Renault has invested heavily in testing and adapting cars to the harsh climate conditions of the Gulf market. The vehicles undergo testing in extreme heat and sandy conditions, and the airconditioning units have also been improved.

The extra cost incurred in testing the cars is absorbed in the company's margin, not passed on to the consumer, Mr Lakdawala said.

In partnership with local dealers, Renault plans to increase the number of regional showrooms by 45 per cent by the end of this year.

Renault has 24 showrooms in the GCC and Iraq.

Last year, Renault sold more than 4,275 vehicles in the region, an 87 per cent increase compared with 2009.

"So far Renault is the third European brand in the GCC, just below BMW and Mercedes, so when we look at our position it makes us the first generalist European brand," said Benoit Turibe, the marketing director for Renault GCC.

The car maker offers a range of 12 models, including small cars such as the Sondero and larger 4x4s such as the Koleos. Prices start at Dh42,500 (US$11,570) and rise to more than Dh100,000 depending on the specification, with each model pitched between the prices of Korean and Japanese brands.

Traffic to Renault's website in the Middle East has grown from just 200 daily visitors in September to more than 2,000 now, and the company has tried to increase awareness among younger Arabs through Facebook.

To celebrate the GCC's 30th anniversary of foundation, Renault is running a competition for anyone turning 30 this year to apply. The company is offering a free car to the person who has the most friends vote for them on Facebook.

"We are investing very heavily in marketing to further the awareness and familiarity of the product," said Mr Turibe. "The most important thing is that we are providing a reliable and durable product at an affordable price."

rjones@thenational.ae