French car maker Renault SA, along with its Japanese alliance partner Nissan, is the world’s third largest automaker. The French government has a 15% stake in the company, perhaps a reflection of the time when Renault was a nationalised enterprise.
From making transportation vehicles like taxis, trucks, tractors, buses, vans and cargo vehicles, Renault is now known for its racing cars as much as it is for its foray into manufacturing electric cars.
Renault owns several automobile and allied companies including Automobile Dacia (Rome), Renault Samsung Motors (Korea), RCI Banque (specialist in automotive financing and services for Renault, Nissan, Dacia and Renault Samsung Motors dealers) and Motrio (automotive parts company).
In 1899, Louis Renault along with his brothers Marcel and Fernand founded Renault Corporation as Société Renault Frères. Louis was responsible for designing and producing the cars while his brothers managed the company that had actually started manufacturing its since 1898.
To gain publicity for Renault cars, the brothers started participating in motor racing. Not surprisingly, Renault did well in the city races and the company achieved the recognition it was striving for. Unfortunately, Marcel met with a fatal accident in the Paris-Madrid race in 1903 after which Louis never raced again. However, in the year 1906, Renault AK 90CV went on to win the first Grand Prix event in the world.
From tiny cars to the large ones, Renault had a car to suit the taste of every car lover. The Grand Luxe Renaults (6 and 8 cylinders) had over 12-foot wheelbase. In 1928 itself, Renault had seven models ranging from 6cv to 40cv. Of these, Vivasix PG1 was popular as the executive sports model.
In 1929, Reinastella was launched with 8 cylinders followed by Suprastella in 1939. What differentiated the Stellas and the Grand Renaults was a small star just above the front hood Renault diamond. Eventually, in the 1930s, all Renaults came with the Stella suffix.
During World War I, Renault manufactured highly acclaimed military planes, tanks (Renault FT-17 tank) and ammunition. With this success, Louis decided to get into agricultural and industrial machinery production. After World War II, Louis took a major decision by refusing to produce tanks for Nazi Germany. What followed was his arrest and death at Fresnes prison in 1944. However, Louis Renault had secretly developed a rear engine 4CV by then.
As World War II ended, the company was nationalised as Régie Nationale des Usines Renault in 1945. 4CV became extremely popular and Lefacheux oversaw the prototyping of the Dauphine, which again achieved tremendous success.
Renault 4 and Renault 8 made their appearance in 1961. Then came Renault 10 with a larger, and the last, rear engine model. Renault became synonymous with success as it launched the modern and plush Renault 16. In 1972, a compact and economical Renault 5 spelt success for the company. It was later replaced by Super5.
From the late seventies, Renault started participating in many motorsports with its Formula One cars. Renault Espace, second-generation Renault 5, Renault 9 and 25 were strong additions to the company’s rich portfolio of cars.
For the first time a Japanese and a French company entered into a major joint-venture alliance in 1999 when Renault joined hands with the then-struggling Nissan. Later, in the year 2010, Renault-Nissan and Mercedes-Benz entered into an alliance. What resulted is the plan to create a revolutionary model based on the Renault Twingo.
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