Renault has a great little story about how it came into being. Louis Renault was born and grew up in Paris. Louis was the youngest of five kids, and at an early age he developed an enthusiasm for all things mechanical, including engines and electricity. The family was quite well off, thanks to Louis’s father being a conscientious businessman, and very near to Paris, they owned a second home. It was at this property inside a garden shed that young Louis set up his first workshop. Although schooling and studying was not his strength, the quiet teenager had two vital assets for getting on in life: he was both intuitive and practical.
By the age of 20, he made a brilliant entrance into the growing world of the motor car. He transformed his De Dion-Bouton tricycle into a small, four-wheeled vehicle and added another of his inventions that would soon drive the motor car into a new era: the ‘direct drive’, the first gearbox. It instantaneously dethroned the transmission chains and cogs that had been used up until this point.
In1898, Louis was spending Christmas Eve with some friends. He was very confident about his invention and his own ability, and he placed a bet with them that his vehicle could climb the 13% slope of the Rue Lepic in Montmartre. Although they were sceptical, his friends were soon forced to believe what they saw with their own eyes. This event enabled him to grasp his first 12 firm orders, along with cash deposits. His career was under way. A few months later he filed the patent for the direct drive system that would make his fortune. All other car manufacturers very quickly adopted this new feature.
The Renault brothers set up their own company and used their own cars to compete in city to city races around France. Gaining victory after victory was the best form of advertising and direct marketing that the brothers could have wished for. An admiring public made their order books fatter with every race.
The cars the brothers designed and produced were sold for 3,000 francs. This was equivalent of ten year’s of an average salary at the time. Needless to say, the company expanded rapidly and the workshops by the Seine were forced to expand. Renault, at this time, had their first saloon car on the market. Louis introduced the first Renault engine, with four cylinders and 24 horse-power. Soon after, Louis patented the first ever turbo in 1902.
After World War I, Louis Renault had a tremendous boost of creativity. He proceeded to manufacture everything that had an engine: cars, light commercial vehicles, vans, buses and trucks, farm tractors (whose caterpillar tracks were inherited from wartime tanks), ships’ engines, motor units, railcars and, of course, aeroplane engines. And to supply the Renault workshops, he acquired his own foundries, ironworks, sandpits, forests and sawmills, enabling him to make everything that would reduce his dependency on other companies for steel, cardboard, electrical equipment, industrial rubber, oil and lubricants. When components were cheap, he did buy them; However, if he could make them himself for a cheaper price, he did. This also meant that he kept the quality of his components higher than they otherwise might have been.
After much success, Louis Renault died in 1944 and Renault became government owned. Renault has continued to be very successful thanks to Louis’s wonderful entrepreneurship and talented instigation.
Today Renault still is at the forefront of automotive design and technology, and continues to be a major force on the Formula 1 racing circuits. Renault is also the number one selling carmaker in Europe. Renault has had eight cars awarded with the maximum 5 star safety rating from Euro NCAP giving it one of the world’s best safety records for any car manufacturer.
A large portion of the Australian public enjoyed the Sydney International Motorshow of 2006, where some wonderful Renault cars were on display. In 1999, Renault and Nissan formed a very successful alliance, and Renault Australia has drawn on Nissan’s strengths in Australia to form a comprehensive network of Australian dealers to sell and service the Renault marque.
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