Renault’s Zoe defies virus with a jump in sales

PARIS • Sales of Renault SA’s all-electric Zoe car jumped 38% in the first half (1H), a rare bright spot amid the grim fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

Most of the deliveries were made in Europe, where the Zoe became the best-selling electric car thanks in part to generous government incentives, the French automaker said in a statement yesterday.

Renault’s overall sales in the period fell by more than a third, to about 1.26 million vehicles, because of lockdown measures in countries from Italy to Russia. That is still better than cross-town rival PSA Group, whose sales dropped 46% to 1.03 million vehicles.

“We are starting the 2H20 with a very high level of orders, a satisfactory level of inventory, a rising price positioning across the entire range,” Renault head of sales and marketing Denis le Vot said.

Renault was a big beneficiary of subsidies that France, its biggest market, implemented last month to get consumers to switch to cleaner cars. In Europe, customers ordered about 11,000 Zoes in June alone, bolstering Renault’s bid to meet more stringent emissions rules this year.

Renault, like its peers, has been hit hard by Covid-19, which shuttered showrooms and factories around the world. The company has announced a sweeping cost-savings plan, and the French government’s aid is aimed at saving jobs in the industry.

Renault’s sales dropped by a fifth in Russia, its second-biggest market, followed by India (29%) and Brazil (47%), according to the statement. A bright spot was South Korea, where sales climbed 51% as buyers snapped up the company’s newly introduced XM3 SUV.

President Emmanuel Macron has implemented a raft of measures aimed at reviving France’s struggling car industry and drawing manufacturing back to local factories. The plan includes purchasing incentives for electric vehicles, cash-for-clunkers aid to encourage consumers to trade in older cars and subsidies for struggling auto-parts makers.

Renault’s new CEO Luca de Meo took the reins this month after the company announced a plan to eliminate about 14,600 jobs and lower production capacity by almost a fifth.

The cuts include trimming 4,600 positions in France, or about 10% of the carmaker’s total in the country. The plan has sparked an outcry from labour unions and criticism from the state, its most powerful shareholder. — Bloomberg