With sales flagging in its home market, Renault Samsung hopes the introduction of Renault’s popular Clio in Korea will stimulate interest in its entire domestic portfolio.
While RSM’s global sales were up 2.9% year-on-year in April with 23,096 vehicles sold, local deliveries were down 21% at 6,903. Dismal domestic sales for the full four months pulled the Korean subsidiary of French automaker Renault down nearly 1% to 87,996 vehicles.
The Clio has been the best-selling vehicle in its class in Europe for the past decade, with more than 14 million units sold since its launch in 1990.
Although the 2018 Korean sales target for the Clio minicar is set at a modest 5,000 units, the new entry is taking center stage this month at the L’Atelier Renault Seoul visitor theme center in Seoul’s upscale Gangnam district.
The five-story “brand familiarization” building is being devoted solely to the Zen and Intens trim versions of the imported Clio, with many models displayed for hands-on examination. The center also offers widescreen video presentations, interactive displays and electronic price quoting and test-drive-booking stations.
The Gangnam structure is the Korean version of Renault’s famous L’Atelier Renault landmark attraction in Paris, which opened in 1910 on the Champs-Élysées to show Renault vehicles in comfortable surroundings with on-site café service and other amenities.
The L’Atelier Seoul Renault building’s rooftop open-air lounge also is a draw, apart from the Clio, and RSM hopes it will attract Gangnam’s youthful upmarket customers.
Interestingly, the Clio is not an upmarket vehicle. With added Korean electronics and limited modifications, it is available at lower prices than comparable models in France.
The Korean Zen model of the 5-door hatch is priced at 20 million won ($18,500). The Intens model with a higher-grade interior is in the 23 million won ($21,300) range.
Some analysts believe RSM’s promotion of the new import will enable the 5,000-unit sales goal to be hit before the Clio officially goes on sale May 15. It was limited availability, not low expectations, that set the conservative sales goal.
The Korean Clio features a 90-hp dCi gasoline engine mated with a 6-speed DCT. Options include Smart Connect 2 connectivity with T-map GPS monitor, as well as parking assist, backup camera, frontal-pedestrian detection and front-collision avoidance.
Preorders are being taken at RSM’s 230 South Korean showrooms. Service by certified RSM-trained mechanics is provided at 470 outlets across the country.
In a first for RSM, the Clio enters Korea wearing the Renault diamond badge, not the flat oval given RSM vehicles by the former Samsung Motors before Renault acquired majority ownership of the fledgling company in 2000.
Analysts doubt the Renault logo will appear on all RSM models. Modifying the Clio’s front end to accommodate the flat oval would have been considerably expensive, so the diamond badge stayed.