Renault leads Europe's EV defence in Geneva as Chinese rivals expand

Renault leads Europe's EV defence in Geneva as Chinese rivals expand

Reuters — 2024-02-27

Automotive Industry

Renault and China-owned MG launched new electrified cars in Europe at the Geneva car show on Monday 26 February 2024, as Chinese automakers seek to take more market share from legacy European rivals.

Europe's auto industry is scrambling to cut costs and roll out more affordable, well-reviewed electric vehicles (EVs) to counter the arrival of cheaper Chinese models.

The strong presence of Chinese competitors at the show, which returns during this last week of February 2024 after a four-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, shows "they are interested in our market, in our customers," Renault CEO Luca de Meo told Reuters.

Speaking to media later, after unveiling Renault's highly-anticipated new electric R5, he insisted Europe's auto industry was "up for the challenge".

De Meo repeated calls to replicate the success of European airplane maker Airbus for the car industry, by fostering deeper cooperation between automakers.

Renault itself is in early talks with Volkswagen to share its Twingo electric platform with the German company, he said.

The French automaker's CEO also said he was pushing for European Union regulation to be more flexible for small cars to help make them more competitive.

In a sign of weakening interest from legacy automakers for most car shows, there were fewer exhibitors than before COVID, with stands in just one hall, rather than in several at the last show in 2019. US EV pioneer Tesla does not have a stand.

The R5 is central to Renault's efforts to build affordable EVs. Rival Stellantis will roll out its electric Citroen e-C3 this year, which starts at €23,300 ($25,275).

Also on Monday 26 february 2024, SAIC's MG brand announced the European launch of its MG3 hybrid, which is already sold in Britain.

According to French auto consultancy Inovev, with sales of 230,000 cars last year MG sold two out of three Chinese-made cars in Europe.

Inovev estimates that, including Russia and Turkey, Chinese automakers should sell more than one million vehicles across Europe in 2024.

China's state-owned SAIC also said its EV brand IM Motor would launch its L6 luxury electric SUV in Europe next year. IM Motors is also backed by Alibaba Group investments.

China's BYD which outsold Tesla globally in the fourth quarter, lost out to Renault's Scenic in the "car of the year" award at the exhibition.

"This is another symbol we are back in the game," Gilles Le Borgne, Renault's head of engineering, told a media event.

But the fact the BYD Seal electric sedan was in the running for the award shows just how far China's automakers have come in their quest to break into the European market.

Like many other Chinese models, the Seal has earned a five-star Euro NCAP (new car assessment programme) rating, a far cry from the crash test failures in 2006 and 2007 that marred their early attempts to crack Europe's competitive market.


In response to the influx of lower-cost Chinese models, legacy automakers like Renault are rushing to develop EVs for €25,000 or less.

Its new R5 copies design elements from the combustion engine R5 and the brand's iconic Super 5, such as vertical tail-lights and bright colours. The two models sold more than nine million cars between 1972 and 1996.

The first version of the R5 will launch in the second half of 2024 with a 52 kilowatt hour (KWh) battery with a range of 400 km (249 miles) and a price tag of around €30,000.

So far, Chinese automakers have focused on larger, more upmarket models. But they are expected to come with smaller cars for €25,000 or less.

Renault has said the first R5 version will be followed "as quickly as possible" by a cheaper, less-powerful version of the same model - 40 KWh with 300 km of range - for €25,000.