Renault Make Overview
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|Renault 18i||Renault Caravelle||Renault Fuego|
|Renault Le Car||Renault Sportwagon|
Although many drivers in the United States may not recognize the Renault name, this French company actually has a long history as an innovative automaker. Founded in 1898, Renault sprang primarily from the vision of one man, an engineer named Louis Renault who, at the age of 20, converted a French-built tricycle into his first four-wheeled vehicle. Soon after, he invented the first automotive gearbox, or transmission, which he called the "direct drive," and the company was on its way. Renault (pronounced "ruh-noh") can lay claim to a number of other automotive innovations as well, including the first turbocharger.
Joined by his two brothers in the business, Renault started building, selling, and racing automobiles, which quickly established the automaker's reputation. The company unveiled the first saloon (sedan) car in 1899, and introduced a four-cylinder, 24-horsepower engine in 1902. In the years that followed, Renault expanded its manufacturing lines, producing taxis, buses, tractors, railcars, and airplane engines. After falling behind American automakers in production numbers, due partially to World War I, Renault opened its first American-style mass-production assembly line in 1929.
During the 1930s and '40s, Renault competed with other French manufacturers, such as Peugeot and Citroen, as well as British, German, Italian, and American automakers in creating affordable, and ultimately profitable, cars. One of its early efforts, the Juvaquatre, failed to catch the imagination of auto buyers. But its follow-up, the 4CV, produced from 1946 to 1960, proved more successful and helped rescue the company from oblivion.
During the 1950s, Renault began selling its vehicles in the United States, with some success. The Dauphine, which was the successor to the 4CV, sold well in the U.S. In fact, in 1959 more Dauphines than VW Beetles were sold in the U.S., according to Renault. But the car soon became dated, prompting Renault to introduce two new vehicles: Renault debuted the five-door, four-wheel-drive Renault 4 in 1961, and a year later, the automaker unveiled the Renault 8, which was the first automobile with four disc brakes. In an effort to upgrade its image, Renault introduced a more upscale "estate" hatchback, the Renault 16, in 1966. Other signicant cars introduced during the 1970s included the Renault 15 and 17 coupes, the upscale Renault 20 and 30, and smaller cars like the Renault 12 and 5.
During the 1960s, Renault allied with AMC, at the time America's fourth largest automaker, by building Rambler Classic sedans, which came to be known as Rambler Renaults, at its plant in Belgium. In 1979 Renault acquired a stake in AMC, and contributed some parts to the Jeep XJ Cherokee. Another co-production was the Renault Alliance, introduced in 1983 and named Motor Trend's domestic Car of the Year. But sales were shaky due to quality issues, and Renault sold AMC to Chrysler in 1987.
In 1990, Renault signed an alliance with Volvo, which lasted only a few years, and in 1999 it purchased a stake in Nissan, forming the world's fourth largest automaker. Today, Renault produces a wide range of cars, including the upscale Laguna, the Scenic minivan, the Megane hatchback, and a number of other compacts, subcompacts, sedans, and minivans. In recent years, Renault has focused on building eco-friendly cars, which sell well in Europe, as well as in other countries around the world.