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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

2008 Renault Koleos: In Detail

A unique industrial adventure Five years after the Renault-Nissan Alliance was sealed, and four years after the founding of the Renault Samsung Motors brand in Korea, Renault took the decision to launch a 4x4 project driven by a twofold objective: to complete its C-segment line-up yet remaining true to its philosophy as a company which designs and produces vehicles that respect others.

The synergies permitted by the Alliance, such as the sharing of platforms and mechanical assemblies, and the prospect of increased sales in Korea ensured a first class financial context.

The different roles were allocated as follows: Renault would work on the concept, design the vehicle, draw up a brief concerning performance and equipment and supply the diesel powerplants. Nissan would bring its 4x4 technology to the table, supply the petrol engines and take responsibility for validation. Finally, Renault Samsung Motors would ensure the production of Renault Koleos for the world market.

The Alliance's C platform which had been transformed into the C 4x4 platform by Nissan for its X-Trail and Rogue models lent itself perfectly to the new crossover's volumes. Production of the vehicle in Korea rapidly emerged as the natural choice, given that SUV and crossovers are the predominant category in the country where they enjoy a market share of some 20 per cent. Meanwhile, the efficiency and flexibility of Renault Samsung Motors' Busan plant was a further parameter that argued in favour of using the Korean facility as the sole production site for Renault Koleos and a letter of intention was signed in March 2004. Koleos was destined to be Renault's first crossover, conceived and designed by Renault, developed by Nissan and built by Renault Samsung Motors.

A team of Japanese engineers from Nissan was despatched to work alongside Renault's own design team at the Technocentre in Guyancourt, France, to validate the project's technical feasibility. The pre-contract milestone was rapidly reached and, in December 2004, the decision was taken to launch the development phase of the H45 project. A Renault project team specializing in the Renault-Nissan Alliance C platform was set up to serve as a small-scale interface and channel requests for information from the project teams at Nissan and Renault Samsung Motors. An equal parity, tripartite steering committee was consequently established and the programme chiefs from each of the three brands met regularly in France, Japan and Korea to arbitrate on the responses of Nissan's vehicle engineering department to the demands of Renault's brief.

The following phase saw the project switch its base near Nissan's Atsugi engineering centre in Japan where designers from Renault and Renault Samsung Motors worked on finalizing the exterior and interior design. The first Renault Koleos was born. The design freeze milestone was reached in July 2005 and the go-ahead was given for development of the H45 to begin.

28 months of development

From the design freeze milestone to production sign-off in November 2007, 28 months of active collaboration saw the programme teams of all three brands focus on achieving the objectives set by Renault.

The combination of the project's complexity and the tripartite relationship permitted new, increasingly streamlined practices to be put into place. To ensure that Renault Koleos benefited from the very best that the Renault-Nissan Alliance had to offer, arbitration was called for on several occasions, if only because customer demand has a tendency to differ from one continent to another, making it necessary to anticipate market trends on a global scale. Furthermore, although the operational methodologies employed at Renault and Nissan are converging, the two entities still have strong separate cultural identities and it was necessary to take their specificities into account.

The bulk of the work that followed the contract milestone in October 2005 concerned the response of Nissan's vehicle engineering department to the product, performance and equipment demands formulated by Renault.

The first prototype was produced in Japan at the beginning of 2006 in the Nissan pilot factory where the assembly processes and necessary tooling are developed before the production of a new vehicle can begin in the chosen factory. Renault Koleos naturally followed the same path as the Nissan models based on the same platform X-Trail and Rogue and the same manufacturing processes were adopted.

In November 2006, the first waves of physical prototypes marked the start of the H45 project's production phase. Renault Samsung Motors allocated a staff of 68 to work in Zama with Nissan's vehicle engineering department to draw up the standard operation sheets and optimize assembly procedures.

In parallel, a test programme was put into place to validate the performance and reliability of Renault Koleos in extreme conditions. A total of 1,750,000km was covered, either on location or on tests benches. Given the newcomer's broad spectrum of markets, including Russia, Korea, the Middle East and Australia, Koleos was put through its paces in the severest of conditions. The cold climate tests took place in Japan on the island of Hokkaido, while the hot weather programme was organised in Australia and Spain.

Six months later, the vehicle arrived on the production line in Busan, Korea. This timeline enabled the necessary tooling for production start-up to be completed, while the operators themselves received nearly 50,000 hours of specific training.

On November 5, 2007, the Busan factory was given the green light to begin the manufacture of QM5, the Korean version of the forthcoming Renault Koleos. A few months later, the first vehicles for the Korean market rolled off the line just as production of Koleos started in readiness for the model's release in Europe in June 2008.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance: a power-horse of performance

The concept of co-development, or task-sharing, between three players with such distinctive cultures as France, Japan and Korea turned out to an extremely stimulating challenge for the Renault-Nissan Alliance.

A capital outlay of less than 400 million

The performance of Nissan's engineering department, the synergies permitted by the Alliance and the flexibility of Renault Samsung Motors' production plant in Busan, Korea, made it possible to achieve considerable investment-related savings. Indeed, the total capital outlay was a highly competitive 391 million, below the initially targeted figure.

Capital outlay was divided into:

  • engineering costs: 192 million,
  • production-related investment: 178 million, half of which was spent on the Busan factory and the remainder invested in the set-up of specific tooling at the premises of suppliers,
  • start-up costs: 21 million.

The engineering costs notably covered the work put in by Nissan to adapt to the requirements specified by Renault. The latter's particularly demanding brief stipulated that it would supply Nissan with the technical elements and mechanical assemblies required to develop the sort of features and functions specific to the Renault brand which its customers have come to expect and which can be found on vehicles throughout the range.

These include the automatic parking brake, Man Machine Interface and speed limiter, as well as the 'magic handle' function of the hands-free card and the 'voir clair' ('clear view') demist function which Nissan succeeded in incorporating from the initial design phases. The carryover of Renault mechanical assemblies outweighed the expense of having to adapt them and enabled capital outlay to be kept to a minimum.

Production-related investment at Busan notably went on improving work conditions and creating more ergonomic work-stations which are a pledge of quality and productivity. Koleos is the 11th of the 26 models that Renault has announced to fuel its growth. The launch of a 4x4 crossover sees Renault pursue its product offensive and complete its vehicle line-up with a model that marks a first in the history of the brand. In addition to the newcomer's proven 4x4 technology, Renault's brings its expertise in the realm of safety to the table, as well as a typically Renault approach to modularity and comfort to provide a spectrum of top-end functions and features of a level similar to those featured on Laguna III.

From launch, Renault's first 4x4 crossover is targeting a place amongst the best in its class in terms of product and service quality, an undertaking which is backed up by the same three-year or 150,000km warranty that covers Renault's other upper- range vehicles.

This approach forms part of a global strategy aimed at both promoting brand loyalty and winning over new customers to speed up Renault's presence on the international scene and develop the sale of top-end vehicles while at the same time consolidating its flagship values, namely comfort, intuitive design and modularity.

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Related entries:

Renault Koleos Concept Unveiled at Paris


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