The Renault Logan was launched in India with much fanfare by Nissan - Renault Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn in 2007. Last year, the company fell out with its Indian joint venture partner Mahindra forfeiting the Logan as well. But Carlos Ghosn, Nissan-Renault's flamboyant Chief Executive, had tasted success in the Indian market and had no intention of leaving for good. Last year, Nissan started volume sales in India with the Micra while Renault will launch an executive sedan later in May, the Fluence, with a whole new sales and service network.
Meanwhile, Mahindra, which had retained the Logan, announced last week that it was re-branding the car as the Mahindra Verito. Logan's popularity as a budget sedan took a hit after the split and its sales have been weak in the face of fierce competition from the Tata Indigo and Maruti Swift Dzire.
"The Logan may not have been the most desirable or appropriate choice as the first Renault car in India," says Renault India Vice President Ashish Sinharoy. "However, that does not take away from its basic value proposition". It has seen huge success in many other markets around the world." He adds that the Logan suffered from perception problems primarily due to its plain looks.
Sinharoy says the company has learned from the Logan experience and the Fluence launch should hold it in good stead. The Fluence is a premium sedan that, according to Sinharoy, "straddles the D (Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla) and E (Honda Accord, Toyota Camry) segments".
The company also plans to launch the Koleos, a crossover sports-utility vehicle, later this year to take on the Hyundai Santa Fe and Toyota Fortuner. "Both the cars will be loaded with a host of premium features that are usually found in much more expensive cars," says Sinharoy.
But these are just appetisers for the main course which Renault India plans to serve in 2012 when it enters the mass-market small car segment, with a product based on the new V platform it shares with Nissan. In addition, the company will launch two other products in 2012 and aims to sell 100,000 cars in India by 2013 with over 70 dealerships.
Ambitious plans, but will customers continue to associate Renault with the staid Logan or look beyond to the fresh new products? That remains to be seen.