'Le Car' Returning as an Electric Vehicle

It’s been a rough year for the auto industry overall, but the coronavirus pandemic probably could not have come at a worse time for the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.

Those companies were already reeling from the scandal involving the group’s former chief executive, Carlos Ghosn, who was arrested in Japan on financial misconduct charges, only to flee to Lebanon in a daring escape.

As Renault sought to pick up the pieces and assuage concerns about its governance and reputation, the pandemic hit, resulting in billions in losses, thousands of layoffs and slashed production.

In the wake of those cutbacks, Renault’s new CEO this week outlined plans for a smaller company heavily invested in electric vehicles — one of its few bright spots. And the overhaul involves the return of one of the French automaker’s classics.

The company unveiled a prototype electric vehicle based on the R5, the subcompact — known as Le Car in the U.S. — that drew a cult following during its initial runs from the 1970s to the mid-90s. 

The Renault 5 retains many of the original’s stylistic features while incorporating modern systems, lighting and design. The company vowed to “democratize the electric car in Europe” — but keep the 5’s “fun, anti-crisis and mischievous side.”

Ghosn had hoped to increase Renault’s annual output to 5 million vehicles in coming years, but current CEO Luca de Meo instead plans to curb production from 4 million to just north of 3 million vehicles per year by 2025 while cutting costs and ramping up its mobility capabilities. 

Over that span, the company plans to launch 14 core vehicles — half of them fully electric.

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