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A Brief history of Renault

Few people have made a larger contribution in shaping the way the motorcar developed through its infancy than one Louis Renault. Renault was born in 1877 in the heart of Paris, the youngest child in a family of five, his father had made his fortune in textiles and buttons and his mother was the daughter of a wealthy merchant. Fascination with mechanical engineering led the young Renault to neglect his schoolwork in favour of hanging around the workshop of Léon Serpollet, the workshop where Serpollet built his steam-powered cars. Using a tool shed at the Renault's second home, Louis would develop his engineering skills working on an old Panhard engine, these skills would serve him well as he would become one of the great innovators of the early auto industry.

Following the conclusion of his military service, Renault, with the help of a military colleague converted his De Dion-Bouon cycle into a four wheeled vehicle, this would not have been so remarkable, had it not been for a couple of inventions that Renault incorporated into his design. A universally jointed prop shaft and a three-speed gearbox plus reverse replaced Chains and belts and this technological advance would within months become the norm. Renault went on to patent this design in 1899.

Christmas Eve 1898 was a massive turning point for the young Renault, out celebrating with his friends, he made a bet that his new vehicle could drive up the slope of Lepic Street in Montmartre. After successfully completing his task Renault had not only proved the worth of his new invention, he also walked away with firm orders (and deposits) for 12 vehicles. Renault's older brothers Marcel and Fernand saw the potential for their brother's new invention and on the 25th of February 1899 the brothers formed the Renault Frères Company. In the beginning the two elder brothers took control of the companies finances and administration, leaving Louis to concentrate on design and production. Louis would wait until 1908 to take full control of the business when Fernand retired due to ill health, his other brother Marcel had died tragically in 1903 whilst competing in the Paris-Madrid motor race.

Louis Renault would remain in complete charge of the company for the next forty years, he was decorated for his services during the first world war with the Legion of Honor for his successful military designs, the most notable of which was the Renault FT-17 Tank, the first tank to have an armament placed inside a rotating turret. The Second World War however would not be so good for Louis, in 1939 he refused to make tanks for the French army, as a consequence the government acquired control. When France was invaded by the Nazi's all companies fell under the control of the German's and Louis decided to collaborate with the invading force. Liberation came in 1944 and Louis Renault was arrested for industrial collaboration, the Renault company was nationalised and shortly after Louis died, an autopsy would go on to prove his neck had been broken leading to suggestions that he had been murdered.

In the immediate period following nationalisation Renault seemed to thrive, the 4CV released in 1946 proved successful and was promoted how Renault had promoted all its cars, through motor racing, it won the Monte Carlo Rally, the Le Mans 24 and the Mille Miglia. But the one problem that was holding Renault back was its relationship with its workforce, labour unrest that began in the 40's would be a problem that would stay with Renault through to the 1980's.

Although Renault launched many successful models during this forty-year period including the Renault 4 in 1961, the Renault 8 in 1962 and the Renault 5 in 1972, it found itself in a position in 1984 where it was losing one billion Francs each month. Major restructuring was needed and Georges Besse was installed as Chairman. Besse set about cutting costs ruthlessly, many of Renault's non-core assets were sold off, staff were made redundant and Renaults activities in motorsport were curtailed. In 1986, having halved the deficit, Besse was murdered by a left wing terrorist group and his position was filled by Raymond Lévy who continued with the cutbacks until in 1987 Renault reached a point where its finances were stable.

With a sound financial footing, Renualt once again began to thrive, new models were introduced in the shape of the Clio (replacing the extremely popular 5 model), the Laguna, the Megane and the Scenic. Successes in motorsport also returned with Renault supplying the engines to the Formula One winners in 1992, 93, 95, 96 and 1997. Realising it was holding the company back, the French government privatised Renault in 1996. Further new models were addded to the Renault range and in 1999 they purchased a 36.8 percent equity stake in Nissan which was close to bankruptcy, this was increased to 44.4 percent in 2002 and this provides the Renault Nissan alliance with just under 10 percent of market share, making them the fourth largest manufacturer after Ford, Toyota and GM.

Renault made a return to Formula One in 2001 when it purchased the Benneton team and success followed quickly, they won their first race in 2003 and in both 2005 and 2006 they won the driver's and constructor's championships.

 

 
 

New Renault Clio  

New Renault Clio
Renault could never have guessed that when the Clio was launched, as replacement for the Renault 5, it could have been as successful as it has.

  New Renault Clio Sport Tourer  
New Renault Clio Sport Tourer
New to the Clio range is the Sport Tourer, designed to take on the likes of the Peugeot 207 SW, the Tourer is a versatile small estate car.
             
New Renault Espace  
New Renault Espace
When it comes to MPV's, Renault is a leader and the Espace is one of the best reasons why. Roomy and well built its all you could want in an MPV.
  Grand Espace prices  
New Renault Grand Espace
The Grand Espace is now available in both five and seven seat variants, so if you need even more room for the family the Grand Espace is for you.
             
New Renault Kangoo  
New Renault Kangoo
Simple and straightforward, the Kangoo is a practical MPV. It may be a car but drop the back seats and you've got all the space of a small van.
  New Renault Koleos  
New Renault Koleos
Renault had a lot of help from their friends at Nissan when it came to the Koleos, so Renault's first foray into the 4 X 4 market should be a success.
             
New Renault Laguna  
New Renault Laguna
Just as valuable to the family driver as it is to the fleet driver, the Renault Laguna was thee first car to be awarded five stars in its Euro Ncap test.
  Laguna Coupe prices  
New Renault Laguna Coupe
Certainly one of the better looking estate cars on the market, the new Laguna Sports Tourer is much improved over its predecessor.
             
Laguna Tourer prices  
New Renault Laguna Tourer
Certainly one of the better looking estate cars on the market, the new Laguna Sports Tourer is much improved over its predecessor.
  New Renault Megane Coupe  
New Renault Megane Coupe
Certainly one of the better looking estate cars on the market, the new Laguna Sports Tourer is much improved over its predecessor.
             
New Renault Megane Cabriolet  
New Renault Megane Coupe Cabriolet
Facelifted in 2006 the new megane cabriolet has a folding metal and glass roof, the only other manufacturer offering the same is VW with the EOS.
  New Renault Megane  
New Renault Megane Hatch
The Megane caused a bit of a stir at its 2002 launch with all that shaking of asses. Opinion is still divided and most people seem to either love it or hate it.
             
Megane Sport Hatch prices  
New Renault Megane Sport Hatch
The three door version of the hugely popular Megane Hatchback is the Megane Sport Hatch and its bold styling still splits opinion.
  Megane Sport Saloon prices  
New Renault Megane Sport Saloon
Renault's offering in the small saloon market is the Megane Sport Saloon, Not as bold as the Hatch, but still a good looking car.
             
Megane Sport Tourer prices  
New Renault Megane Sport Tourer
The estate version of the big bottomed Megane is the Sport Tourer, with loads of boot space it's an ideal mid sized estate.
  New Renault Modus  
New Renault Modus
The Modus was the first car to gain five stars in its Euro Ncap tests. Versatile, safe and stylish the Modus is designed to take sales from the Ford Fusion.
             
Renault Grand Modus  
New Renault Grand Modus
The Grand Modus is a supersized version of its smaller sibling, longer and wider, with more room both in the boot and for passengers.
  New Renault Scenic  
New Renault Scenic
If its space you are looking for then look no further than the Scenic. Space, versatility and practicality are all available in abundance.
             
New Renault Grand Scenic  
New Renault Grand Scenic
Designed to take on the likes of the Vauxhall Zafira and the Volkswagen Touran, the Grand Scenic is now available with either five or seven seats.
  New Renault Twingo  
New Renault Twingo
Available on the continent since 1993 the Renault Twingo has proved so popular over the channel it's been launched here in the UK.
 

 

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