Renault has made a name for itself as a monovolume specialist. This must change.
Recently, we highlighted Ford’s retreat from the Euro-minivan sector, amid a rapidly contracting market for such vehicles and FoMoCo’s own fiscal woes across the region. However, the blue oval is far from alone in viewing this segment with jaundiced eyes, with news breaking more recently that owing both to falling sales and the advent of the newer and more crossover-ish C5 Aircross CUV to the market, Citroen is ceasing production of the short bodied SpaceTourer (aka Picasso).
Having previously declared the compact MPV sector for Renault’s Scenic, further study however reveals that the real 2018 winner was in fact the VW Group, who arguably had the good sense to offer two different nameplates (if similar looking vehicles) under Touran and Sportsvan nomenclatures. Combining these model’s sales for 2018 would place Wolfsburg decisively ahead of Billancourt.
As carmakers such as Opel, Ford and Peugeot exit the sector, the likes of segment stalwarts, Citroën, and Renault look set to battle in ever-decreasing circles with the finger-in-every-pie VW. What appears evident is that for these ‘mainstream’ carmakers, their more compact minivan offerings are most likely to experience that unmistakable feeling of cold steel upon their necks, assailed from both compact crossovers (well, isn’t everything?) and a two-pronged assault from BMW and Mercedes. (Ditto)
Curiously however, while BMW offers its unlovely 2-Series Tourer in both short (Active) and long-tailed (Gran) derivations, Mercedes have opted for a different approach; its new generation B-Class being primarily a five-seater, while its forthcoming GLB sibling will be offered as a seven-seater, suggesting a certain hedging of bets in Sindelfingen.
The likelihood appears to be that the seven-seaters from the French duo and VW will for the time being prevail, before these too gradually decline as demand across the sector finally hollows out.
But while VW and to some extent, Citroën currently offer variations on the now traditional monovolume box on wheels (the double chevron offering more in the style versus substance stakes), Renault has with its current Scenic, attempted to marry the monospace’s virtues – interior room, visibility and versatility – with more of a coupe cum CUV aesthetic. An MPV perhaps for those who deep down really wanted a large crossover.
It’s an arresting looking thing, seen here in Grand Scenic form (has anyone actually seen a ‘normale’ version in the wild?), but one does have to wonder if the attempt at differentiation has been worth it, even allowing for the sales numbers, which of course only tell part of the story.
Renault sold slightly over 90,600 Scenics of either stripe across the European region last year, a drop of 15% over 2017, which although significant amid a sector-wide loss of 20%, was still notably less than that of its major rivals. However, with figures from this year also showing a further downward trajectory, brows must be furrowed at Quai le Gallo.
As a European pioneer of the MPV format, Renault has perhaps more skin in this particular game than its rivals, but it could equally be argued that they simply have too many competitors at play. But as the bloodletting continues unabated, a monospace reckoning of some sort must be in the offing.
In addition to both Scenic models, not to mention all or any van-based Berlingo models, Renault also offer the range-topping Espace. Boulogne-Billancourt delivered just under 12,000 Espaces last year, a significant drop on the year before and one which suggests that its market appeal is fading – or that it’s being cannibalised by the Grand Scenic, which after all, isn’t dramatically smaller or less useful – simply cheaper.
One wonders what product decisions Thierry Bolloré will take once both Scenic and Espace become due for replacement in the next couple of years? Perhaps a combination of sentiment and heritage might be enough to keep the axe at bay, but the smart bet is on at least one nameplate fading away. The question that remains is which?
Sales data sourced from carsalesbase.com