This world famous manufacturer of vans, Lorries, buses, cars and tractors was founded in 1899 by the Renault brothers namely Luis, Ferdinand and Marcel. Much of the credit for the establishment of the motor company can however be attributed to Luis Renault who had already designed quite a few vehicles before joining his brothers.
Luis was in fact he built the first Renault car in 1898. The car, known as “Renault Voiturette 1CV) was an incredibly unique car whose design was unlike anything seen in that era. The story goes that Luis was giving a friend of his father’s a test drive. The man was so impressed with the car and how it ran that he purchased it right away.
This interaction motivated the young Louis, allowing him to start his own company that he named the Societe Renault Freres. By 1901, his brothers had joined him at the company and together they launched the Voiturette Renault Type D Serie B. Two years later, the company began to produces its own engines. Soon, the company was participating in races. But Marcel died in an accident at the Paris-Madrid race, Louis chose to stop racing. The company continued to enter vehicles in races though and in 1906, won its first Grand Prix.
Renault 1905- 1940
Renault made its first major sale when the “Societe des Automobiles” placed an order for Renault AG1 cars to make a fleet of taxis. In two years, the company had become the leading manufacturer of taxis in France and had even become a best-seller in New York.
Like many other car makers at the time Renault would halt production of passenger vehicles and venture into making military vehicle during the war. The company produced Lorries, airplanes, ammunition and the now popular F-17 tank for the French military. At the end of the war, Louis received the “Legion of Honor” medal from the Allied Nations.
The company signed its first distribution contract with Gustave Guedet and the diamond shaped logo was adopted as the company’s identifier. By 1929, the Renault brand had become popular in more than 49 different countries and in that same year, the Ile Seguin Plant was established to help increase production.
By the 1930s the company was manufacturing diesel powered commercial engines, but the great depression of 1936 hit Renault hard. The company had to sell its airplane division and chose to focus solely on the automotive side of the business. More than 2000 Renault workers also lost their jobs.
Renault 1940 – 1980
During the Second World War, the French government became convinced that Louis was working with the Germans. He was consequently arrested in 1944 and sent to a psychiatric facility where he died shortly afterwards. This resulted in the nationalization of Renault.
After the war, the new nationalized company released the 4CV model in 1946. Between 1951 and 1960, the vehicle offered a 2-litre, 4-cylinder vehicle that they names the Renault Fregate. In this ten year period, the company also introduced the Renault Dauphine and expanded in North American and African markets.
In 1966, the company released its now very poplar Renault 16, a car that was seen as more modern and up-market than any other vehicle the company had ever made. That same year, the Renault 6 also made its debut.
Renault 1980-Present Day
In 1981, the Renault Model 9 would surprise many by winning the European Car of the Year Award. This decade also saw a lot of Renault’s models see a lot of style changes including significant design changes to the Renault Turbo 5 and the Renault Fuego. 1996 saw a merger between Renault and Volvo and the Renault Company was privatized for the first time since the death of Louis in 1944.
The company would continue a steady rise in the nineties to become the top manufacturer in France again in 2000. It won the European Car of the year award in 2005. By 2011, the company was becoming a top seller of electric cars with more than 40,00 electric cars sold that year. It is also a household name in motorsport races including the World Rally Championship.
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