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According to Richard Hammond of Top Gear, Renault's entry into the people carrier market sold just nine cars in its first month (1:18 - 1:27).

However, I cannot find a single source to back up Hammond's claims. Is it true that this car was a flop on launch?

  • 4
    A large fraction of things you hear on Top Gear may be....aha..."artistic license". It's as much a comedy (and a good one) as a car show. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Jun 12 '11 at 0:53
  • @dmckee Yes, that is why I didn't believe it when I first heard it. (And why I am still skeptical.) – Thomas O Jun 12 '11 at 1:05
  • Wikipedia also tells this fact, and it references the same video as you did, as a source – Jader Dias Jun 12 '11 at 1:44
15

Renault publish sales figures but only back to 2007.

Automobiles Review concur with Top Gear, stating that, in July 1984:

Commercial launch in France with only nine sales in first month and 2,427 sold in the year.

While they don't cite sources, note the additional full year figure, which suggests they did not source this information from Top Gear themselves.

Also notice that the Espace was not launched in the UK until July 1985, so when Hammond says "racked up worldwide sales... of nine", it is strictly true, but was really limited to the French market.

Aside: I know little about the sales and distribution channels of Renault in 1984, but with the products I have been involved with, I note that there was often a gradual roll-out (rather than a giant flashy launch), as the new distribution and retail processes get set-up and the gremlins sorted out. In such cases, there initial roll-out can be deliberately limited, and a small first month is not seen as a failure, but as planned. Once it has been established that orders can be fulfilled correctly, the marketing effort can begin in earnest.

  • I can't dig up the exact figures, but I have also run across the "nine" figure for the first month HERE. THIS source has 192k sales for 1987, so things definitely picked up. Lastly, THIS states that sales started tentatively in Apr 1984 but "demand soared skywards" several months later. Does seem to be true, but doesn't seem like it's as horridly telling as they make it out to be. – Hendy Jun 13 '11 at 4:06
  • Thanks, @Hendy. The first link cites Wikipedia, which cites Top Gear. I was trying to find a source that didn't rely on Top Gear, so they weren't just potentially reinforcing the same mistake. I saw the 3rd link too which has bonus points for being from Renault, but was a little too vague to address the claim, so I omitted it. ("Tentative" could mean 9 sales or 1000 sales.) – Oddthinking Jun 13 '11 at 9:04
  • holy cow -- I totally missed that the first link was a regurgitation of Wiki! Nice eye. – Hendy Jun 13 '11 at 14:28

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