It has been a chastening year for the automotive industry as a whole but if consumers were heading online in greater numbers before the COVID-19 pandemic, then they are now charging headfirst onto internet to do their buying.
Across the globe, retail and F&B outlets are reporting double-digit or even triple-double-digit changes to where their revenue is coming from. Do not assume this is a western or Asian phenomenom either. Last month, a report by statistica.com, showed that while 48% of shoppers have not changed their online shopping habits, 32% said that they were now shopping for a wider range of goods and 21% said they were shopping online more frequently. A further 6% said they shopped exclusively online.
The future, then, is looking more and more like a digital one. The best vehicles to meet this demand will be ones that are able to deliver in and out of the urban environment at ease and in step with ever-more demanding emission rules.
With his company committing to producing electric trucks for construction, distribution and long haul, Renault Trucks’ Bruno Blin says the events of the last 12 months will define how the French heavyweight is approaching an exciting, if uncertain, future for the industry.
“Let’s move back one year ago. Remember more or less everything was collapsing. 2020. The year will stay in our memory as a tough one, but also a year which has allowed Renault Trucks and its employees to make miracles to protect our colleagues, our customers and our company 2020 was also the year where we have been able to continue and even accelerate our transformation towards more sustainable transport solutions.”
Much of 2020 was spent dealing with the chaos caused to customers by the pandemic with Renault moving quickly to help financially with adapted finance solutions; and practically with an impressive set of initiatives including daily meal distribution for drivers, helping nursing staff and supporting a staff initiative to 3D print protective wear for key workers.
“We have seen the importance of transport and especially truck transport during the pandemic and our truck drivers. They were seen as heroes during this period and I hope that this image built during this period will stay.”
Seemingly referring to the tireless efforts of the industry and also his own company, he adds: “During adversity speed and agility can really make the difference.”
Overall, the year has seen 41,000 trucks invoiced and a 24% decline in deliveries. Blin says this is in line with the global market but sees a very positive indicator in an increase of new orders by 12% in 2020. It has also largely protected its 8.5% market share in the all-important heavy duty segment in Europe: “This shows the resilience of our market and the resilience of our own position.”
Looking further afield, the MENA region continues to a source of pride for Blin.
“We have had a good year on the international market despite the crisis and despite the geopolitical tensions. We increased our deliveries by 16% with more than 4,000 trucks delivered. For example in Algeria, we have seen a recovery with 1,100 trucks invoiced which represents an increase of 80% compared to the previous year. Thanks to our factory in Meftah, we confirmed our market leadership with 48 percent market shares. Unfortunately for us and for our customers, 2021 remains very uncertain in Algeria because of the ongoing change on import regulation.
“We also noticed a good performance in sub-Saharan Africa, especially in Guinea and Senegal where we propose a dedicated used trucks offer which are fully refurbished and transformed vehicles. We also saw a strong increase of our deliveries in Turkey, of more than 1,000 vehicles in 2020, which is a 66% increase in a very fast, growing market.”
As T&FME has previously reported, Renault Trucks’ factory in Bourg-en-Bresse has been converted to handle the refurbishment of used trucks for markets such as the Middle East and Blin reveals that it is now running at full speed with 500 trucks transformed in 2020. The T X-Road 64 launched in the region last year, and Blin openly declares: “We clearly want to compete with Chinese players in Africa”
He adds that the company has also launched a new project with Indra to develop a network for recycling and reusing truck spare parts.
“We are pioneers for the industry in the circular economy,” declares Blin before turning on his heels to stress that the company is still focus on accelerating “the preparation of the future. One of our priority is to develop products and solution that reduce the CO2 footprint.”
Blin has committed the company to ensure its running fleet will be carbon-neutral by 2050. This isn’t as far off into the future as it may at first seem.
“As all our trucks last around 10 years, it means that from 2040, we need to ship 100% of our trucks as fossil-free.”
Renault Trucks began series production of its second generation of electric vehicles at its Blainville-sur-Orne plant in March 2020 and is now able to boast a range of all-electric commercial vehicles from 3.1 tonnes to 26 tonnes – consisting of the Renault Trucks D ZE, D Wide ZE, and the Renault Trucks Master ZE. As such, Renault Truck is able to meet the requirements of urban transport, delivery, distribution, and waste collection. By 2023, an all-electric option for each market segment will be available to any fleet wanting to invest.
Blin envisions that the share of conventional engine sales will continue to decrease progressively but a gap exists in the heavy-duty segment on how to bridge the gap to a carbon-free future.
“We can say that the absolute majority that we will put on the market around 2040 will be electric. But we think that we will see two different technologies when it comes to energy storage: batteries and fuel cells. We don’t know exactly what the mix between those two technologies will be but we believe that both technologies will play a major role in the future.”
“The transformation has already started and Renault Trucks is clearly in the lead,” he proclaims. “Regarding the medium duty, we are in serial production already serving more and more customers for important segments like distribution, waste collection and recycling. We are continuing to roll out the electrification of our range for all relevant segments to be able to step-by-step cover the entire market.”
Find out why Renault Trucks will not be seeking a CNG or LNG alternative for its trucks in the latest issue of Truck&Fleet Middle East magazine