What were they thinking? Renault Alliance

In the second half of the Seventies, French giant Renault decided it wanted to gain a foothold on the other side of the Atlantic, in the good ol’ US of A. So it teamed up with the appropriately named American Motors Corporation to flog French cars to the Yanks.

The first product of the tie-up was the R5-based Le Car, which proved to be a reasonably popular alternative to the Honda Civic. Then, in 1983, came the Renault Alliance.

The Alliance started life as the Renault 9, European Car of The Year in 1982 but completely unremarkable save for a notably comfortable ride. Even so, Renault sold several million of them, particularly in emerging markets – it was built in South America and Turkey until the late Nineties.

The transformation from R9 to Alliance was a bit of a lash-up job. The styling was tweaked with a quad-headlight grille and impact absorbing bumpers, and the interior was marginally poshed up. The biggest change was the addition of reasonably good-looking two-door and convertible versions.

American car magazines were rather enthusiastic about the Alliance, heaping awards on it for its peppy performance, decent handling – even if the drop-top was a bit of a blancmange – and value.

Initial sales were promising, too, but American buyers weren’t convinced. It wasn’t powerful enough, didn’t have air-conditioning and shoddy work by badly supported dealers led to reliability issues. Facing increasingly strong competition from Asia – Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Pony – the idiosyncratic Renault was never going to last.

In ’87, after four years on sale, Renault pulled the plug. It’s part ownership of AMC didn’t last much longer, either, soon selling up to Chrysler. Renault’s American adventure wasn’t a complete waste of time, but did little to help it or AMC.

By Only Motors

Images via Favcars.com

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