JLR figured large in the UK business pages last month with the announcement that from 2025 the company would build only EVs. The man delivering this news was JLR’s new CEO Thierry Bolloré, who until October 2019 was CEO at Renault, no stranger to electric cars.
Also announced in February, but rather overlooked by the British press was Renault’s 2020 result, a breath-taking €8bn loss. While Peugeot under Carlos Tavares makes grand acquisitions left and right and seems unstoppable, Renault continues to struggle. Last year’s historically poor figure is partly attributable to the pandemic, but mostly to the collapse of Renault’s partnership with Nissan where Renault has a 43% share. It is the Japanese who have contributed the bulk of Renault’s profitability for several years, but in 2020 Nissan generated a €4.9 bn loss. The Franco-Japanese venture negotiated and managed by Renault’s Carlos Ghosn fell into disrepair after the Lebanese was arrested by the Japanese on charges of corruption, a move seen in France as a deliberate attempt to reduce Renault’s influence at Nissan. The upshot, besides the ejection of Mr Bolloré (seen as too close to the disgraced Ghosn regime) has been a shortage of innovative new models which has left Renault with a distinctly uninspiring range. People carriers, almost invented by Renault’s Espace have fallen from favour, Renault’s small EVs which never achieved the volumes planned now appear dated and sales of the Dacia low-cost brand have been disappointing in emerging markets.
2021 is likely to be another difficult year for the Group: shortages of electronic components continue to dog the industry and the covid epidemic still affects sales. Renault’s long awaited new EVs, the electric Mégane and R5 will not reach the showrooms before 2022. Meanwhile, the French government which remains a 15% shareholder will lend a further €4bn and new CEO Luca di Meo is talking up his ‘Renaulution’ strategy, whose priority will be “profitability and cash.” At the other end of the market meanwhile, his predecessor Thierry Bolloré wants to take JLR in pursuit of boutique marques like Aston Martin instead of trying to challenge BMW and Mercedes. It will be interesting to see which or indeed whether either route to an electric future proves successful.