Renault Zoe: Return to Australia ruled out


New safety rules will see Renault’s maiden electric hatchback remain off-limits to Australia for the rest of its run, though there’s nothing ruling out its successor for local roads.

Electric vehicle fans and buyers hoping for a return of the Renault Zoe to Australia will be disappointed, as the French maker has confirmed new safety regulations will stymie any chance of the small electric hatch returning to local showrooms.

When the Zoe was first axed from local showrooms in 2020, Renault Australia blamed slow electric vehicle (EV) sales and a lack of government incentives – but despite rapidly-increasing EV sales numbers and new $3000 incentives in NSW and Victoria, new side-impact crash regulations set to come into force on 1 November 2021 (known as ADR 85) rule out a return for the rest of the current Zoe’s run.

While the new regulations will come into effect in Australia on 1 November 2021 for vehicle models that first entered production prior to 1 November 2017, no such date has been set for existing models to meet the standards in Europe, the Zoe’s key market – making a business case for the engineering changes required difficult to justify.

“ADR 85 reflects a regulation that is not being adopted globally at this point in time. This adds further complexity to production for a country that represents approximately one per cent of the global market and already has unique design regulations required for the market,“ said Glen Sealy, general manager of Renault Australia, in a statement.

“In short, it adds expense to cars that must be engineered specifically for the Australian market and rules out a number of models that should be here … It also means that other models that should be available to the Australian market are too complicated to import due to re-engineering requirements specifically around ADR 85.

“Zoe, as one of the leading electric vehicles in Europe, falls into this category,” the executive concluded.

It’s instead likely Renault Australia’s focus (through its new importer, Ateco) will be on bringing the next generation of electric vehicles (EVs) Down Under, including the upcoming Renault 5 – which could become Australia’s cheapest European EV, thanks to a new platform claimed to cut prices by 33 per cent versus the Zoe, equating to just under $35,000 before on-road costs, before government incentives.

Renault CEO Luca de Meo confirmed earlier this year that Zoe production is slated to end in 2024, with its spot in the line-up to be filled by the aforementioned Renault 5 due in the first half of 2024.

“Renault Australia is working closely with our colleagues overseas to determine future product line-up here in Australia. We will communicate further in due course,” a Renault Australia spokesperson recently told Drive, when queried on the chances of the Renault 5 making it to Australia.

Introduced for fleet buyers towards the end of 2017, and made available for private buyers in mid-2018, the Renault Zoe was offered in Australia in pre-facelift guise with a single powertrain choice: a 68kW/220Nm electric motor, paired to a 41kWh battery for a ‘real-world’ range of 300km.

Despite being the cheapest electric passenger car on sale at the time of its launch (at $51,990 drive-away), just 63 examples were sold between its launch and official discontinuation, shifting fewer units than exotic marques including Ferrari, Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce.

While a facelifted Zoe was slated for local showrooms in mid-2020, slowing sales and a lack of government support saw plans for the updated car’s introduction scrapped.

“Electric cars remain a curiosity on Australian roads, with around 5000 sales in the segment last year [2019],” said Charly Clercin, senior product manager at Renault Australia, told Australian media including Drive in July 2020.

“With such limited numbers, it makes it a difficult case to present to head office, especially when they are selling more than 10,000 units a month [in Europe].”

Despite the Zoe’s discontinuation, the door was left open for future hybrid and electric Renault vehicles to come to Australia – a rollout that could commence with the brand’s first dedicated electric vehicle, the new Megane E-Tech Electric small SUV, revealed earlier this month (above).

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