Renault, a historic giant in the automotive industry

Renault was founded in 1898and, together with its allies Nissan and Mitsubishi, forms the world’s leading automotive group. It is a major player in electric and hydrogen mobility.

In this article, we present

  • Renault’s history (in brief)
  • Renault battery electric vehicles
  • Renault hydrogen electric vehicles

(Brief) history of Renault


The Renault company was founded in 1898 by three brothers, Louis, Marcel and Fernand Renault, initially under the name “Renault Frères”. Initially targeting a wealthy clientele, they moved into cabs, with an initial order for 250 vehicles in 1905.

Voiturette Renault de 1901
Renault small car from 1901

The company also took part in motor racing, with the brothers (Marcel and Louis) going so far as to drive their vehicles themselves. Their successes (Marcel won the Paris-Vienne race in 1902) accelerated the company’s development.

However, Marcel was killed in a race in 1903, prompting Louis to stop racing. In 1906, Fernand retires from the company for health reasons. In 1908, Louis bought out his brothers’ shares and renamed the company Renault.

Renault and the world wars

In 1914, the company diversified, producing munitions and military aircraft. In 1917, they even developed the iconic Renault FT, said to have been“the most effective tracked armored fighting vehicle of the First World War“.

File:A French World War I Renault FT-17 tank, ditching.jpg
Renault FT

In 1922, the company opened up its capital and became a Société Anonyme.

The company then moved into agricultural and industrial machinery.

By 1928, Renault was producing 45,809 cars a year.

With the outbreak of the Second World War and the Occupation, the Renault factories were seized by the German authorities, and Prince Von Urach was put in charge. The plants were bombed by the Allies on March 3, 1942 and again in September 1943.

In August 1944, the factories were liberated, but Louis Renault was imprisoned on charges of collaboration. Ill at the time of his imprisonment, he died a month later in Fresnes prison. He was 67 years old.

The company was nationalized in 1945, becoming the “Régie Nationale des Usines Renault” with Pierre Lefaucheux at its head.

A nationalized company

Renault developed the 4CV in 1947, which was one of the first popular cars in France and a symbol of the country’s post-war modernization. It scored a number of successes in motor racing.

More than a million units were produced when it ceased production in 1961, and it was replaced by the Dauphine, of which more than 2 million were built.

In 1984, the Régie was“on the brink of the abyss“, with a deficit of 12.5 billion francs. The chairman was dismissed and replaced by Georges Besse, who was assassinated on November 17, 1986 by anAction Directe commando.

The carmaker was privatized in 1990 and floated on the stock market in 1994.


Well-known models include Twingo, Clio, Mégane, Scénic, Espace and Kangoo. Renault is France’s biggest carmaker.

Renault and Nissan took major stakes in each other’s capital in 1999. It also took control (51%) of Dacia on July 2, 1999 for $50 million. In 2001, Renault swapped 21.6% of Volvo for 100% of Renault Trucks (then Renault V.I.). In 2016, Nissan takes 34% of Mitsubishi. Synergies between the three companies would reach 5.7 billion euros in 2017. This is the structure of the group in 2007:

Note that it sold its shares in Volvo in 2010 and 2012. Carlos Ghosn became CEO of Renault in 2005. He will resign in 2019 following the Japanese government’s prosecution of him. For further information, the Wikipedia article on his history is extremely rich. For financial and production data, you can check out this 2018 report.

Renault electric vehicles

As of 2017, the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance is said to be the world’s leading automaker. They reportedly sold 540,623 electric vehicles between 2010 and 2018.

Their electric models are :

Renault hydrogen-powered cars

Renault is also a player in hydrogen mobility, and offers two hydrogen-powered vehicles:

Note that Renault Master vehicles are marketed by Renault Trucks, which is no longer a Renault subsidiary, but Volvo.


Which brands does Renault own?

Renault owns the Renault, Dacia, Alpine and Mobilize brands.

What is Renault’s slogan?

Since 2015, the slogan has been“Renault – Passion for life“. This echoes the 1985 slogan (“Renault, Des Voitures à Vivre“), which was replaced by“Changeons de vie, changeons l’automobile” in 2003, with the arrival of electric vehicles.

Who runs Renault today?

Today, the Renault group is chaired by Jean-Dominique Senard (since January 24, 2019) and managed by Luca de Meo, who succeeded Carlos Ghosn on July 1, 2020.