Louis and Marcel Renault at Paris-Bordeaux rally (1903)
Renault began with three brothers who were extremely enthusiastic in automobiles. First cars of Renault were selling successful, furthermore, company actively participated in automobile racing, which was extremely dangerous at the time, yet very spectacular. Winning one race after another, Renault cars inspired more and more people to buy their first automobile. Company grew very fast — in 8 years it conquered taxi markets of France and England, had established production of very successful trucks.
During the first World War, company gave birth to several military projects: troop transporters, airplanes and tanks. War contracts gave significant boost to company development, which allowed it’s expansion into new areas — it branched to agricultural and industrial machinery. By 1928 Renault was producing 50000 vehicles per year, covering very broad range of models.
After capitulation of France in WW2 Renault reduced to collaborate with occupants, which lead to heavy bombardments of plants rendering them useless for production till 1944, when factories were opened once again. But production could not reach pre-war levels, as company was unable to recover from damage. This led to company’s nationalisation by French government in 1945 and changed its name to Régie Nationale des Usines Renault.
In 1946 Renault launched model 4CV, which was developed by Louis Renault during the war. The model instantly became a huge success, rivaling Volkswagen Beatle at 500,000 sold units per year.
By 1970 company was producing roughly million cars per year. In 1970s company was expanding globally, setting up collaborative ventures all over the planet, with Dacia being one of such projects.
1980s were a turbulent time for Renault — despite success of their models, company was loosing money. Trying to revitalise the company, Georges Besse, chairman at the time, was selling off many of Renault’s assets. Policy of cutting costs eventually stabilised company by 1987. But certain financial problems prevailed through the 1990s.
In 1996, as a measure to resolve financial situation, company was privatised and in 1999 Renault-Nissan alliance was born with 36.8% stake of Renault in Nissan (currently — 42%). Shortly after the creation of an alliance, controlling stake in Dacia was acquired, followed by the acquisition of automotive division of Samsung. In order to finance new acquisitions, company sold off many assets, parting with Renault Trucks division in 2001, which became part of Volvo.
In 2000s company’s development was significantly fuelled by huge success of Logan project. And by the end of decade Renault-Nissan alliance ventured into Z.E. project, which focuses on “zero emission” vehicles, powered by electric drive.