Renault’s bakkie plans for South Africa are not at all what you’ve been led to believe
Renault’s bakkie plans for South Africa make for interesting reading. But that’s because they have nothing at all to do with what you may have been led to believe.
In fact what’s out there about Renault’s SA bakkie plans, reminds me of an old mentor of mine. Back when I started out in this game, knowing way too much about cars but nothing of journalism, I picked those who I worked with to learn quickly, very carefully.
One of those men, David was a crass expat Aussie with the typical vile tongue and an attitude few will ever forget. I can still see him so clearly in my mind’s eye, stooped a little forward, his half-empty scotch so nearly spilling from the smudged lowball glass in his left hand, the Texan pain held like a zol along with a pen in the right, as he exhaled on my asking his advice on finishing a piece for his Motoring News one deadline many moons ago…
NEVER LET THE FACTS GET IN THE WAY
“Nah you bloody drongo!” he scowled. “Never let the damn facts get in the way of a good story.” Yip, David lacked a few filters more than just the Texan, to be honest. Well a few more than I did anyway. And I soon learned what I should take from him and what not to. That pearl was among the latter!
So, getting back to Renault’s bakkie plans in South Africa, it seems there are more than enough sources out there that either don’t care about the facts. Or their scribes never enquired about them in the first place. So when it comes to the Renault Alaskan, you may very well be looking forward to the next episode of ‘How to Fail Selling a Pickup Spun off the Nissan Navara in South Africa’. Don’t.
For the record, the Alaskan is nothing new — based on its Nissan-Renault Alliance cousin, it’s just that — a Navara in drag. Sadly it had another cousin, but I’m sure you know by now that Mercedes X died very young. Like its kin — dead or alive — the Alaskan is a lifestyle double cab powered by Nissan’s familiar 140 kW 450 Nm 2.3-litre biturbodiesel four pot. There are other engines, but they’re non-starters anyway, if Alaskan ever came here.
THE DEAD COUSIN
Now let’s get back to the dead cousin. We all knew Mercedes shot itself in the foot by adding a fifty percent premium to a Datsun bakkie with a star on the nose. But the X-Class is not alone as a bakkie flop in SA.
Fiat, for example, hardly made an impression with the Fullback — a fine ute at an even finer price. But sell it, they just can’t. Whether that’s to do with dizzying speed of the musical chairs merry-go-round at its local head office, or just brand perception in this market is a moot point, but something’s clearly not quite right there.
It’s not much better for the bakkie we still believe the rest must beat to build the best — Fullback’s younger cousin Triton. Or even for that matter the Navara. But that’s likely to change once Rosslyn soon starts spitting them out — local bakkie buyers production seem to favour locally produced vehicles. Both the new Navara and the next Amarok will also be built here.
NAVARA WILL BE MADE IN SA TOO
So in the face of the exact vehicle being built here with a Nissan badge on it, and knowing that the last lot to try the same trick and import a Nissan with another badge on it failed so dismally, would you even think of going down that road? Well, neither would I.
But certain local media still make a meal of the Alaskan coming here: “Renault will sell both the Alaskan in 2021 locally,” one hallowed scribe offered a while after Mercedes had already culled the poor old X. “It will be a facelifted version.” They reiterated a few months later too: “Renault SA is looking to expand its product mix with the Alaskan.” And just in December they asked which Alaskan engines would come locally.
As recently as October, another scribe suggested we, “should expect Alaskan to undercut the Navara … and … we’re hoping that the Peugeot Landtrek does enough to get people into different kinds of vehicles to motivate the launch of Renault bakkies in SA too.” And by the end of last year, it seemed every man and his dog was on the ‘Alaskan is Coming’ bandwagon
’20 TO 40 SALES A MONTH NOT LEGITIMATE’
Clearly they had clicks to bait. Especially considering Renault’s own comments on the matter: “The South African bakkie market is very tough to enter,” Renault SA marketing suit Jesus Boveda recently offered. “We could be bring the Alaskan, but we’d only sell 20 to 40 a month and that’s not at all legitimate.”
Dazzled by all of the above, we quizzed Renault SA on the matter of Alaskan in South Africa and the answer was patent: “No news on Alaskan local launch.” Which just reiterates what Jesus suggests.
That’s just half the story though. There’s another Renault bakkie on the horizon and that one is coming.
THE OTHER BAKKIE MARKET IS WIDE OPEN
See the other bakkie market in South Africa is wide open — there for the plucking, so to say. And since GM buggered off, Nissan has had the so-called half-ton market all to itself with its ageing Dacia-based NP200. Now if anyone wanted to make a killing in the South African bakkie market, surely you need not be a rocket scientist to figure that the half-ton workhorse segment is the market to chase?
Every security company, every florist, stationer, short-route courier and the rest need half-ton bakkies. And most often, they need them by the dozen. Or the gross. But no other carmaker appears to care a hoot about selling half-tonners and Nissan just keeps on laughing all the way to the bank.
Of course our media peers are also crawling all over Renault’s ‘half-ton’ Oroch, which shares its heart with the first generation of that SUV and which Renault SA has already found great success with and actually has a full ton payload. But once again, our pals have been confused by the headlamps and have the cat a bit by the tail.
OROCH BAKKIE BASED ON PROVEN DUSTER SUV
See, Oroch also comes in a little double cab to satisfy a demand in the South American market They come in the choice of a couple of naturally-aspirated 81 kW 1.6-litre five-speed manual and a six-speed manual 103 kW 2-litre petrols in front-wheel drive. And the proven 1.5 dCi turbodiesel engine with either that 6-hooker or a 4-cog auto and the option of output-rationing all-wheel drive too.
The SA media immediately jumped to conclusions, among them pointing out that, “there’s no double cab available in this segment … where the only real challenger is the Nissan NP200 and that’s a single cab workhorse.” They went on to explain that “the Oroch double cab will be a segment breaker … that will complement the Duster.”
But here’s the thing. Why would Renault take the risk of bringing an untested wannabe front-wheel drive double cab bakkie to try to lead a market that does not exist against established lower-end rear and four-wheel drive Hiluxes, Rangers and D-Maxes? Especially when the obvious, highly established and very needy niche in that neck of the woods is kicking, screaming and crying for an alternative simple single cab half-ton workhorse?
SA REALLY NEEDS A HALF-TON WORKHORSE
Sure, bring that double cab as an add-on to test the waters — who knows, they may even sell like hot cakes. But that’s a maybe. What South Africa really needs is a half-ton workhorse. And with Navara moving into Nissan centre stage, who knows, maybe this is an Alliance thing and Renault will be all alone once the Duster Oroch single cab takes over in 2022?
And that’s exactly what our friends at Renault told us when we bothered to ask — “Duster Oroch (single cab bakkie) is in the planning for 2022.” That obvoius suggestion in brackets, is part of the quote.
And that’s also exactly why Renault’s bakkie plans in South Africa are bound to be a smash hit. Forget about the Alaskan. Forget about the Duster Oroch double cab (for now). Rather focus on the little Oroch single cab. Especially if you’re in security, are a florist, a courier, butcher, baker or candle stick maker.
Because Renault’s little Oroch workhorse may very soon very well be all you will be able to choose in that totally open niche…