20 interesting facts about Renault
Another major automotive company that had started as a small family business, Renault traces its history back to the 19th century. Long-time famous French carmaker bears the family name of Renault brothers. Here are some interesting facts about its long and rich history.
1. The history of Renault company had started with the story of one man with an unusual destiny. His name was Louis Renault, and he was one of the greatest industrialists of 20th century. From early years, Louis was obsessed with machinery and technology. His rich family supported the passion of young engineer, providing him with means to establish his own workshop. He built his first car in 1898, modifying a 0,75 hp single-cylinder engine. The Renault Voiturette (from French voiturette – a little car) was Renault ‘s first ever produced automobile.
2. 21-year-old Louis was a bright, aspiring young engineer who had already designed and built several prototypes before deciding to expand his enterprise. Seeing the commercial potential of a new technology, Louis had teamed up with his two older brothers, Marcel and Fernand, who had business experience from working in their father’s company. They founded Les Frères Renault (Renault Brothers) company in February 25, 1899. The first Renault factory was established in the small town of Billancourt (now a commune in the western suburbs of Paris). It produced two-seater vehicles with a single-cylinder De Dion-Bouton engine and transmission of Louis Renault’s design.
3. In 1900, company’s leadership had changed dramatically. In 1903, Renault began to manufacture its own engines; until then it had purchased them from De Dion-Bouton. Les Frères Renault had shifted gears towards the production of large, expensive cars with a closed cabin. In 1906, the streets of Paris saw more than 250 Renault luxury vehicles, powered by modern two-cylinder engine, with fascinating maximum speed of 35 km / h.
4. One of the first major volume sales came in 1905 when Société des Automobiles de Place bought Renault AG1 cars to establish a fleet of taxis. This early taxicab with landaulet body style was nicknamed “Browning”, because of the its dark-brown colour and extinguishable profile. The model become famous during the First World War, when the fleet of 600 Parisian taxis was requisitioned by the French Army to transport 5000 soldiers from Paris to the First Battle of the Marne in early September 1914. Those taxicabs soon were nicknamed Le Taxi de la Marne (The Marne Taxi). To honour its role in French victory, Parisians built the memorial for the Taxi de la Marne in Levallois Perret, suburb of Paris.
5. At the beginning of the First World War, Renault factories had occupied 14 acres of land, and employed more than 4,000 workers. In order to support French war effort, company switched to production of heavy military equipment, like trucks and artillery carriages, as well as artillery shells. Renault FT-17 light tank, designed by company’s most talented industrial designer, Rodolphe Ernst-Metzmaier and Louse Renault himself, was among the most revolutionary and influential tank designs in history. Its classical configuration – crew compartment at the front, engine compartment at the back, and main armament in a revolving turret – became and remains the standard tank layout. The Renault FT was widely used by French forces in 1918 and by the American Expeditionary Forces in the later stages of World War I.
6. After the end of the world wide conflict, the company returned to car production. Renault invested heavily in the new technologies, most of which were far ahead of its time, thus having only limited commercial success. Nevertheless, this period was marked by the series of victories in various motor sports events. In 1923, French expedition had traversed Sahara Desert, using a six-wheeled Renault prototype, being the first vehicle-based expedition to successfully cross the great desert. Technologically advanced and innovative Renault Juva 4 (Juvaquatre) model arrived in 1935. The Juvaquatre featured independent suspension at the front. Power was transmitted from the front-mounted engine to the rear wheels via a traditional three-speed manual gear box, with synchromesh on the upper two ratios.
7. Right after company’s 40th anniversary the Second World War broke out. After the crushing defeat of French army and German occupation, Louis Renault was faced with a grim choice between losing everything he built and cooperating with the Germans and hopefully stalling them from moving the Renault staff and equipment to Germany. His decision was to retain his factory at all cost. When military and Daimler-Benz officials arrived at the gates of his Billancourt factory to assess it for removal into Germany, together with its workforce, Renault fended them off by agreeing to make vehicles for the Wehrmacht. His choice to cooperate with an enemy made him unpopular among members of the French resistance. After the liberation of France, co-founder of Renault was accused of industrial collaboration with the Germans and was imprisoned, being already seriously ill at the time. He denied all the accusations, claiming that his goal was to keep the French manufacturing base, crucial materials and equipment out of Nazi hands and to save the workers from deportation. Before getting a chance to clean his name, Louis Renault had died under uncertain circumstances while awaiting the trial, in 1944. His company was seized and nationalized by the provisional government of France.
8. On January 1, 1945, four months after Louis Renault’s death, an order of General Charles de Gaulle’s provisional government decreed the dissolution of Société Anonyme des Usines Renault and its nationalization, giving it the new name Régie Nationale des Usines Renault (RNUR). Two years later, company debuted with the new Renault 4CV prototype at the Paris Motor Show. Given the low price, this model become very popular – more than 1 million cars have been sold as on 1961. Alongside with a famous Citroën 2CV, Renault 4CV had become the French people’s car.
9. In 1958, Renault opens a new automotive engine production plant in Cleon (Normandy). The French automaker introduces a number of successful car models. Renault 4, a front-wheel drive economy car enjoyed a great commercial success (more than 8 million cars was produced between 1961 and 1992). Renault 16, a large family hatchback with 1,5 litres engine, was launched in 1965. The layout of this model was quite innovative – front-wheel drive, engine mounted in line behind the transmission, torsion bar suspension, and column mounted shift. Its big advantage was the modern, practical body style – introducing the hatchback to the mid-size family segment.
10. In 1971 three major automakers – Renault, Peugeot and Volvo had signed a tripartite agreement, entering into the joint venture for engine manufacturing. This was the first step towards the extensive industrial partnership.
11. The 70th were the period of rapid growth for the company. Renault had signed-up an agreement with another major French automaker – Peugeot to build the new factories in the Northern France. Renault 5 and Renault 12 models had become the two best-selling French cars in the world. At the end of a decade the brand starts to win the North American market.
12. In 1977, the company entered the Formula One as a constructor, introducing the turbo engine to F1 in its first car, the Renault RS01. Since its debut, the French car manufacturer was constantly involved in F1 as both constructor and engine supplier. Renaults very first F1 victory was achieved in 1980.
13. Renault 9 model was produced in the North America under the name of Alliance since 1982. It was named European Car of the Year of 1982. The car appears in 1985’s “A View to A Kill” as James Bond’s impromptu vehicle.
14. In 1984, the French company had presented its latest model with brand-new body stile. Renault Espace, that was first showcased at the Brussels Motor Show, is often considered to be the first modern minivan. The model has proven successful, allowing Renault for the first time in its history to increase car production up to 2 million vehicles per year.
15. This period of success was followed by a short decline in production. The company managed to overcome this local crisis, releasing the Renault 19 model in 1988.
16. The 1991 was a peak year for the company. The French manufacturer had collected most automaker rewards – Renault Clio was voted European Car of the Year soon after its launch, and was one of Europe’s best selling cars in the 1990s; Renault Ligne was named the Truck of the Year; Renault FR1 became the Bus of the Year and company’s CEO Raymond Lévy was awarded the title President of the Year. The same year, Renault Scénic prototype – a compact multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) – the first to be labelled as such in Europe, was presented to the public for the first time during the Frankfurt Motor Show.
17. Renault Twingo debuted at the Paris Motor Show in September 1992. Its unusual name is a combination of the words Twist, Swing and Tango. Renault’s new city car gained instant popularity, with 2240 vehicles bough by Paris Motor Show visitors.
18. Renault Laguna, a large family car, was launched in 1994. This D-Class vehicle was manufactured by Renault from 1994 to 2001. It was offered in the hatchback and station wagon body styles. Renault Laguna of the second generation was the first European car to use remote keyless ignition system.
19. In 1999, Renault acquires the 99% stake in the Romanian Dacia company, as well as 36.8% stake in the Nissan company. A little later, in 2008, Renault acquires a blocking shareholding in Russian AvtoVAZ company.
20. Currently, the Renault Group continues to be a state-owned company.