Are you tired of automakers who long ago abandoned North American sales making periodic hints at a return to our shores? From Alfa Romeo bringing us a new version of its Spider convertible or Fiat importing the ultra cute 500, all have dropped hints in the press of late that adding sales in the U.S. would be a boon to their bottom line. Well, duh! Even Peugeot wouldn’t be so bad.Unfortunately, the North American market (ala United States) is currently in a position somewhere below Dante’s 11th level of H-E-Double Hockey Sticks (or Hell for those who forgot high school english which is, like, most of you). To paraphrase, it’s bad. Not a good time for anyone to try a launch here. But would that have been the case if Alfa had grabbed the proverbial bull by the horns and dived in five years ago when its announcements started? Not so likely.
As every sales downturn is merely part of our cyclical world economy, things will eventually start to look up. Our advice? When sales in the U.S. normalize, take the advice of Nike and “Just do it!” Look at Chrysler, for example. We hear Daimler’s former partner/captive has a boatload of production capacity it is ready to hawk to the most willing European partner. Just a thought.
Now, though, comes word of one more European automaker considering taking the plunge and bringing models back to the United States. Not only is the thinking ill timed, this French giant has a Japanese partner that already sells boatloads of cars here and would be one of its biggest competitors. We speak, of course, of Renault and its partner/subsidiary Nissan.
Has Carlos Ghosn, the once infallible dictator of Renault/Nissan, completely fallen off his rocker?
In Europe, Renault is in truly dire straits. Recently it announced 6,000 job cuts in France, 2,000 at one manufacturing plant that builds the high-volume, mainstream Laguna hatchback they just released last year. Unfortunately the Laguna has been a sales disaster due to awkward and staid styling. Add to that the fact that Renault suffers a similar reputation as Chrysler has here in the United States. People see Renaults as innovative, but that they also feature some of the worst reliability in the business.
This is not a combination that engenders long term success. Can you imagine if Chrysler and Renault team up (this would be the second time—the Fuego was a joint venture with AMC, an eventual subsidiary of Chrysler) what with their notorious history of cutting corners, quality wise? We can just see a factory employee pulling a new Laguna off the line and, like in that auto manufacturing scene from the 1980’s Michael Keaton film “Gung Ho,” the wheels would fall off th e car. The thought comes to mind because the cars from “Gung Ho” were in fact AMC/Renault sedans closely related to the Fuego.
But seriously. While we think the model lineups of Alfa Romeo, Fiat, and even French rival Peugeot could add some spice to our marketplace, Renault would only end up eating into Nissan sales.