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A History of Renault - The Post War Years


Following the end of the Second World War the famous vehicle manufacturer Renault was taken over by the French government and became the Regie Nationale des Usines Renault. The nationalisation came after the founder of the company, Louis Renault, was charged with collaboration with the German occupation forces. Louis was to die in jail prior to his trial.
The new publicly owned company was headed by Pierre Lafaucheux and immediately made an impact in the peace time motoring market. The 4CV model proved popular, fighting off the challenge of foreign rivals such as the VW Beetle and Morris Minor, staying in production until 1961.
The 4CV's successor, the Dauphine, was also a resounding success in the home market. However, sales abroad failed to meet expectations especially across the Atlantic, and during the early 1960's both the Renault 4 and Renault 8 were rolled out. These models all had rear engines, but following the launch of the Renault 10, the company switched attentions to front engined upmarket models. In 1966 the world's first hatchback, the Renault 16 was introduced, followed by the smaller Renault 6.
With fuel saving measures being pursued due to the oil crisis of the early 1970s, the Renault 5, both smaller and more economical, was launched. Known as the R5, it stood the test of time for over a decade before being superseded by the Super5.
In an attempt to develop a presence in the United States and Canada, the company collaborated with American manufacturers such as AMC. But by the 1970s it was disappearing as a name in its own right in the American market. Despite this the company also developed markets and production in Eastern Europe, South America and Australia.
Heavy losses by the 1980s, when Renault were losing FFR12 billion per year, led to a restructuring of the company. Georges Besse was placed in control of the business and quickly initiated drastic cost cutting measures including slashing the workforce and reducing the companys involvement in motor sport. Besse was assassinated by the Action Directe terror group in 1986 and Raymond Levy was named as Renaults new head. Levy pursued similar measures to his predecessor and by the 1990s the company was healthy enough to launch a new range of cars of which the Clio enjoyed the greatest success.
In 1996 Renault was re-privatised, allowing it to further develop markets abroad. Three years later the company signed a deal with Japanese car maker Nissan which became known as the Renault-Nissan Alliance though both companies retained their separate corporate identities. Further developments saw Renault take a stake in the Russian car maker VAZ in 2008.
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