The Three Musketeers may have immortalised the cry, "All for one and one for all!", but it’s a message with special significance for three other French characters: Messrs Renault, Peugeot and Citroën.

Jaco Oosthuizen, the new MD of Renault SA, says local consumers often categorise them as a single entity: "French cars". So when one brand runs into trouble, it can lead to questions about the other two. There have been plenty of questions in the past year: Citroën has left SA and Peugeot’s parent company has ceded the majority shareholding in its local operation to a Japanese-controlled retail group.

So is Oosthuizen worried for Renault SA, where he took control on July 1? Is there prejudice by association? "Some people will always look for negatives but I know we are strong enough not to be preoccupied by what the others are doing. I’ll go further. This is a good time to be selling Renault cars in SA."

His confidence is understandable. Renault is among SA’s six best-selling car brands and is growing market share at a time when the market itself is struggling to find purchase. "We have the strongest car line-up for years," he says.

Planned new products will make it even stronger. Adding to Renault’s obsession with the letter "k" — it already sells the Kadjar, Kwid and Kangoo in SA — new arrivals will include a new Koleos sports utility vehicle (SUV).

Oosthuizen was previously MD of Daihatsu SA and Mitsubishi SA — both, like Renault SA, part of Imperial Holdings’ Motus vehicle retail arm, formerly Associated Motor Holdings (AMH). He succeeds Nicholas de Canha, who has left to work with his father Manny, AMH’s founder.

If there is a weakness in Renault’s line-up, it is in light commercial vehicles. It is among several companies whose confident forecasts that bakkies would make way for vans have proved unfounded.

As a result, there has been talk for some time that Renault might add a bakkie to its SA line-up. The French parent company offers one in other markets — it shares its name, Duster, with an SUV in SA — but has no immediate plans to bring it here.

Oosthuizen says: "I see further growth in market share from our current product mix but if we are to make a big leap, we probably need to introduce a bakkie."

If it happens, it could be either imported, like Renault’s other models, or built locally. Renault and Nissan have an international alliance, which includes building sister products off common vehicle platforms. Nissan’s SA subsidiary once built the Renault Sandero car from the same platform as the NP200 small bakkie.

Oosthuizen says: "There might be potential for a locally manufactured pick-up in the future. It’s the one area in which we would like to be."

furlongerd@fm.co.za

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