Is Renault Facing a Sales Crisis For its Electric Car Range?

For several years, Renault’s positive attitude towards plug-in cars resulted in it offering not just one, but four different plug-in models for customers to choose from, ranging from the two-seat Twizy urban runabout through to the Fluence Z.E. sedan, Zoe Z.E. supermini and versatile Kangoo Z.E. van.

Renault's Z.E. range got smaller last year when the Fluence Z.E. ceased production. Sales aren't great either.

Renault’s Z.E. range got smaller last year when the Fluence Z.E. ceased production. Sales aren’t great either.

On paper, this approach seemed sensible since it gave Renault the chance to offer zero-emissions solutions to multiple different segments. Unfortunately however, it seems that Renault EV sales in Europe are taking a dive — at least all except its Zoe hatchback.

According to InsideEvssales figures for Renault’s Z.E. range were horribly subdued in January, resulting in a massive 46 percent drop in total global EV sales for the automaker compared with last January. Part of this is due to the axing of the Z.E. Fluence from Renault’s official electric car lineup last November. But as the figures betray, sales of the two-seat Twizy and the Renault Kangoo Z.E. van are also down by 38 percent and 72 percent respectively.

Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom. While Renault sold just 567 plug-in cars globally during January 2014 versus the 1,050 cars sold in January 2013, sales of the Zoe hatchback are 263 percent higher this year than they were last.

Sadly however, that’s not saying much, because the Zoe wasn’t available in many markets until the middle of last year — and Renault’s January 2014 global Zoe sales totalled just 258 cars.  The LEAF, the Zoe’s closest competitor in the marketplace and made by Renault’s alliance partner Nissan, sold 3,736 units globally in January.

Even the Renault Zoe, Renault's flagship EV, seems to be selling far less than its closest competitor, the Nissan LEAF

Even the Renault Zoe, Renault’s flagship EV, seems to be selling far less than its closest competitor, the Nissan LEAF

Of course, it is important to know that the LEAF is a globally-available vehicle, now sold on every continent. The Zoe however, is a European car, which goes some way to explain its lower sales figures. Even if we just look at European figures however, the LEAF still trounced the Zoe: 1,243 to 258. But why?

While the LEAF and Zoe do sell for similar prices in Europe if you opt for battery leasing on the LEAF instead of outright battery purchase (the Zoe only offers battery leasing) the two cars are in slightly different segments. The Zoe is officially a supermini, but the LEAF is classed in Europe as a mid-size family car.

Yet because the electric car market isn’t all that big — and many people tend to naturally buy the biggest car they can afford — the larger LEAF is more attractive than the Zoe.

Add to this a slightly larger electric motor, more rear-seat passenger legroom, and a larger number of DC CHAdeMO quick charge stations compared to 43kW AC Quick charge stations (in the UK at least) and it’s no wonder the LEAF is outselling the Zoe, although we should note that we really do like both cars.

We’re not sure if this dominance of the LEAF will continue, or if Renault’s Z.E. sales are just a seasonal dip after a winter of torrential rain and strong winds.  Unless Renault can increase its Z.E. performance significantly however, we think it risks losing any creedence in the EV market.

Do you agree? Did you choose a LEAF over a Zoe? Or perhaps you’re a die-hard Renault fan. Why are Renault’s EVs selling so poorly?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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