History of RENAULT: Uncover the Driving Force Behind RENAULT’s Legendary History

History of RENAULT: Driving the Way to Automotive Excellence

1898 – 1900 An idea that was born in a cabin

The adventure of the French brand began when the Renault Frères Society took its first steps in 1898. Louis Renault’s workshop is a cabin located on the outskirts of Paris in Billancourt. The first model manufactured is the Type A Voiturette; 60 employees manufactured 71 units (1899). 

The founder has two passions: technological innovation and factories. He sees racing as a way of developing knowledge and promoting vehicles. With this mentality, successes are not long coming: Louis and his brother Marcel claim victory in three races with Type A Voiturette (1899). The growing company now has a capital of 60,000 francs and, a year later, adopts its first corporate emblem: a medallion with two “Rs.” 

1901 – 1910 Serial production begins

With the arrival of the new century, bad luck ran into the Renault family: Marcel, until then in charge of administrative tasks, died in an accident during the Paris-Madrid race (1903). Because of this, Louis withdraws all cars from the competition. Meanwhile, the brand expanded its facilities with workshops for the assembly of vehicles, engines. 

Already in 1905, and due to the first order of 250 taxis, Renault adopted series production. The first vehicle manufacturing is a derivative model known as “Taxi del Marne,” as it will transport troops in the Battle of the Marne (World War I). The first sales subsidiaries emerged throughout this decade: Renault Frères Limited (England) and Renault Automobil AG (Germany). Finally, Automobiles Renault, 1911 – 1920 Cars give way to tanks.

In 1911 new workshops were opened for the construction of commercial vehicles for the French army. Two years later, a new stage arrives: to increase productivity and guarantee its diversification, Louis Renault introduces Taylorism in its plants (a division of labour), a novelty in France. 

That year, production exceeded 10,000 units. The well-established company already has a worldwide network with 31 points of sale. However, the First World War outbreak forced her to get involved in the conflict: Renault started the construction of trucks, stretchers, ambulances, howitzers, planes, and even FT17 battle tanks that contributed decisively to the Allied victory. 

Once the contest is over, the aircraft factory that the brand had created in Pont du Tour (Boulogne-Billancourt) is transformed to produce agricultural machinery. 

At the end of the decade, Louis Renault has become the first private industrialist in France (1919). On that same date, the Le Man’s factory was planned, including a social complex with housing, laundries, schools, an office, a swimming pool, a gym, and even a hotel. Likewise, the Apprenticeship School of the Renault factories was created.

1921 – 1930 The fastest.

The Societé des Usines Renault became a public limited company (1922): its capital of 80 million French francs is divided into 160,000 shares (Louis Renault groups 82%). On the other hand, the DIAC company was created to manage the instalment sale (1924), and most of the workshops built in Ile Seguin began production (1927). 

Although the firm is officially withdrawn from the competition, it has broken several speed records (in some cases, it exceeds 170 km / h). At the moment, the rivalry with Citroën is already evident, hence the birth of the KJ utility, with a four-cylinder engine and just under 1000 cc. The brand closed this decade with the first factory in the United Kingdom (1929) and the SAP RAR company to supply spare parts to the sales network. 

1931 – 1940 Production reaches 58,000 units

In the 1930s, the firm began manufacturing vehicles for public transport: buses, trucks, and even railways. It also increases the production of models such as the Primaquatre and the Vivaquatre, with a markedly economic approach, which comes onto the market during these years. 

In 1933, and due to the weight it acquired as a manufacturer of aeroplanes and engines, Renault bought the Caudron Aviation Society. The acquisition further consolidates this business branch, which is why in 1935, the Renault Aviation Society was established. In addition, Louis became one of the shareholders and administrators of the newly formed Air France. 

A year later, a historical event occurs: the plants close for the first time so that employees can enjoy their holidays. On the eve of World War II, Renault’s production reaches 58,000 units. A situation that changed with the outbreak of the conflict: the German authorities seized the factories of the French brand in 1940. 

1941 – 1950 The nationalization of Renault.

The Germans return the factories to the French brand on the condition that they manufacture for them. Shortly after, in 1942, the Billancourt plant was bombed by the Allies. Despite this, a year later, Renault began design work on a small rear-engined vehicle, the 4CV. 

After the German withdrawal from France (1944), Louis Renault is forced to render accounts before the Gallic justice: he and Renè de Peyrecave, CEO of the firm, are arrested for collaborating with the enemy. Shortly after, the founder died in prison. Simultaneously, the reconstruction of the factories begins, and, eventually, Pierre Lefaucheux takes command. In 1945, the French state nationalized the company, which was renamed Régie National des, Usines Renault. 

The 1946 Paris Motor Show is the setting chosen for the launch of the 4CV, a car that wins the Monte Carlo Rally three years later. The period closes with the arrival of Frégate (1950); With this model, the brand enters a more significant segment and opens up new perspectives. 

1951 – 1960 The Dauphine era

Renault reorganized its sales network and established 17 branches. In addition, it opens the Flins plant in (France) and other assembly plants in Spain, Japan, and South Africa (1953). Two years later, Lefaucheux died; he was replaced by Pierre Dreyfus, vice president of the brand until that moment. 

Under his mandate, the Saviem truck division was created due to the former heavy vehicle departments. The appearance of the Dauphine takes place in 1956. The vehicle is, at heart, an evolution of the 4CV, with which it shares the rear engine. After creating the Compagnie d’Affretement et de Transport (CAT) in 1957, Renault launched a significant sales offensive in the United States to export 34,067 units (Dauphine and 4CV). The new plants in Cléon (France, 1958) and Algeria increase the brand’s production capacity, 

1961 – 1970 Industrial growth

Planning and export are the axes of development of the Régie in these years. After the birth of the R3 and the R4 (a proper replacement for the 4CV) in 1961, Renault inaugurated its new building on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. 

He also opens plants in Madagascar (1962), Portugal, and Venezuela (1963); France -Sandouville-, Canada, Costa Rica, Tunisia and Uruguay (1965); Malaysia, Romania, Singapore, and Trinidad (1968). Meanwhile, the brand expands its catalogue with a high-end model, the Renault 16 (“The pleasure of driving”), and experiences an impressive progression in the world of rallying. 

A year later, the first cooperation with Peugeot arises: from this agreement, a plant for the manufacture of engines and gearboxes is born. After the riots of May 68, which caused the occupation of the Renault factories, R6 1968) and R12 (1969) arrived. On that same date, the “one million” vehicle leaves the production lines. A year later, the shareholding system was introduced at the Regie Nationale des Usines Renault. 

1971 – 1980 The R5 and the first victory in Formula 1

The factories fruit of the cooperation between Renault and Peugeot began to operate in 1971. Meanwhile, the Alpine A110 achieved the first three places in the Monte Carlo Rally. The most important event takes place in 1972 with the birth of the Renault 5

The Alpine continues to reap triumphs, and in 1973 it was proclaimed World Rally Champion. The French brand acquired from Citroën the shares of Berliet (a truck company that joined Michelin in 1967 and joined the Chevron firm to cover more activity -from cars to trucks-). A year later (1975), Dreyfus leaves the company and is replaced by Bernard Vernier-Palliez. At the moment, the share of sales outside the French border rises to 55%. 

In 1976 the Renault Sport division was created: it has a capital of one million francs and is responsible for the first Formula 1 prototype. Two years later, Berliet and Saviem merged to create Renault Industrial Vehicles (RVI). The brand also acquires shares in American Motors (AMC), Mack Trucks, and Volvo (10% with the possibility of expanding to 20%). 

The first victory in Formula 1 comes at the Dijon Grand Prix (1979). The 1970s ended with excellent news: Renault was the first European manufacturer to produce two million cars (1980). In addition, the Trafic and Master models are presented. 

1981 – 1990 After the crisis – Clio arrives

Growth continues at a rapid pace until the early 1980s. Bernard Hanon took over as president of the company in 1981, and Alain Prost was victorious in three grand prizes. 

In addition, Claude and Bernard Marceau won the Paris-Dakar a year later. In 1983, Renault signed an agreement with Magra to market a minivan and assumed control of Mack Trucks. The expansion policy, the large number of staff, and the high costs affect the company’s development, which in 1984 announced losses of 12.5 billion francs. The implementation of a recovery plan causes the immediate loss of 5,000 jobs.

Meanwhile, the manufacturer focuses on improving its catalogue with the R25, the Super-Five, and the Espace. Hanon resigned in 1985 and was replaced by Georges Besse. 

As early as 1986, and after Besse’s assassination at the terrorist group Action Directe, the brand sells its stake in Volvo Car. Profits returned in 1987 when Raymond Lévy was appointed president, and American Motors (AMC) passed into the hands of Chrysler. New winds are blowing for the group, which starts the revolution of “Total Quality.” The conversion of the Regie Nationale des Usines Renault into a limited company, the cooperation agreement with Volvo (which acquires 20% of the French brand), and the launch of the Clio usher in the 1990s. 

That starts the revolution of “Total Quality.” The conversion of the Regie Nationale des Usines Renault into a limited company, the cooperation agreement with Volvo (which acquires 20% of the French brand), and the launch of the Clio usher in the 1990s. That starts the revolution of “Total Quality.” The conversion of the Regie Nationale des Usines Renault into a limited company, the cooperation agreement with Volvo (which acquires 20% of the French brand), and the launch of the Clio usher in the 1990s.

 1991 – 2004 Renault is privatized

Renault plans a merger with Volvo but left the project in 1993. A crucial event was the privatization of the company in July 1996. Freer, Renault entered the capital of Nissan in 1999. Renault continues to innovate and renew itself with Mégane, Laguna. 

The triumphs in Formula 1 reinforce the notoriety of the Renault brand. The Renault-Nissan Alliance is consolidated, and synergies continue to develop. With the purchases of Samsung Motors and Dacia, Renault accelerates its internationalization. Logan’s launch is at the core of the emerging markets’ conquest strategy. 

2005 – 2012 A clear commitment to the electric car

Carlos Ghosn, already President of Nissan, succeeds Louis Schweitzer at the head of Renault. It launches the Renault Contract 2009 plan, positioning the group as the most profitable European constructor. In 2008, Renault continued its product offensive with the launch of the New Megane and multiplied initiatives in favour of the electric vehicle:

  • Collaboration with Better Place and EDF
  • Presentation of a Scénic fuel cell prototype
  • The ZE Concept concept car

In 2011, the first electric vehicles accessible to all were launched: Kangoo ZE and Fluence ZE, followed by Twizy and ZOE.

Leave a Comment