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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  • Kieron

    For me it’s the battery rental thing. The numbers don’t add up with renting as you might as well buy a diesel.

  • Kalle Centergren

    i like the car, but not the car company.ntheir battery skeem is shitty at best. to high monthly fee for low km, and they will charge you each time you are using quick charging. ni do not understand why they do not give us the option to buy the battery.

    • Kalle Centergren

      tho i have herd they will offer the battery for sale in norway for 6000u20ac extra.nhopfully they will give the rest of the world the same option then (but knowing renault i doubt it)

  • Surya

    I went for the Zoe as it is smaller. I prefer smaller cars.nnI wrote a 3 part blog series on about why I chose the Zoe and I compare it to the Leaf, i3 and C-Zeron

  • I agree with Kalle. The Zoe is fine. Renault, not so much. Since my Zoe is a company car, the whole car is leased and I don’t care about the battery rental. I think this will apply to most Zoe drivers, since EV incentives here are mostly directed towards (leased) company cars.nnIt is more that they don’t put any love into the Zoe. They seem to be indifferent towards the car. Not interested in selling it. There has been only one (very lame) tv ad here. That already says a lot.nnThen there are problems with existing charging infrastructure. Many public chargers simply do not work with the Zoe. All other EV’s charge fine, the Zoe is clearly the outlier. But I don’t see any activity from Renault to work together with the owners of said chargers and iron out the wrinkles asap. I don’t have range anxiety, but I do have charge anxiety. Will the charger be free? And if so, will it work with my Zoe?nnAlso there are no Zoe-compatible (3 phase AC) fast chargers. At least not where I live. And The Netherlands is considered one of the hottest markets for EV’s (after Norway). When the LEAF was introduced 3 years ago, there were no fast chargers. But that was 3 years ago, almost an eternity. Today you can’t afford that anymore. See how aggressive Tesla is rolling out their Superchargers. There have been attempts to outfit some LEAF CHAdeMO fast chargers with a 43 kW AC outlet, but that ran into technical troubles. Mind you, those were not the fast chargers owned by their partner Nissan! They were from another company (The New Motion). No action from Renault seen on this front to get things rolling. They are behaving very much like the century old car company: “we provide the wheels, go to someone else for the energy”. That is not a successful strategy to sell an electric car. Tesla got it. Renault didn’t get it. People don’t want a car, they want something that works.nnAnd the obligatory wall charger. That is a costly business for the Zoe, thanks to the wonderful but quirky chameleon charger. It needs a specialty interrupter in your distribution panel. Cost is 1000 to more than 2000 euros. Until a few days ago the Zoe could not be charged on normal outlets. Now that she can, most people will end up installing that expensive wall charger anyway. It is safer and more convenient. So what’s the difference? It is the psychological effect of being forced to spend that money (=punishment) or voluntarily choosing it (=luxury).nnAnd finally there are the problems with the ZE connect service. It is unreliable, user unfriendly and when you contact customer support, well… , there is no support. They can do nothing to make it work reliably. In January, ZE connect was out of service for almost an entire week, with Renault unable or not interested to restore it quickly. Go figure. That doesn’t look like a company valuing its customers and wanting to run the extra mile.nnBut I love the Zoe. She’s a charm to drive and especially the 3 phase charger is a winner. I come home from work at 17:00 with a near empty battery and charging @ 36% per hour, she’s good to go anywhere after dinner. I wouldn’t trade her in for any other car. I’m willing to suffer Renault to drive my Zoe.

  • Richard Glover

    When I saw the Zoe I had to admit that had it come on the market at the same time as the Leaf and you could buy it complete (no battery lease) then thats what I would be driving now.nBut it didn’t. It arrived later. nNow both Nissan and Renault should look at what is and isn’t working in both camps.

  • I went with the Zoe because it was all I could afford, that and the low mileage. The battery rent seems ok, if I say to myself its cheaper then weekly petrol cost… And after adding solar panels, its feels great. But now I’m wondering after reading how sales are down or cooled off. If the future of buying a Renault EV is going to be non existent or worst when it comes to trading my car… Did I just buy a beta max instead of VHS???