North American fans of French automaker Renault have reason to rejoice, as the company is planning a comeback to this continent with a pair of all-electric models: the tiny Twizy two-place tandem-seat city car, and a small commercial van called Kangoo.
These two are hardly the stuff of excitement, but the success of little vans like the Transit Connect and Nissan NV200 (more on it in a moment) suggests the Kangoo is a good candidate for such a market trial. But don’t expect to see Canadian roads clogged with Kangoos: Renault has applied to Transport Canada for a ‘waiver of compliance’ that would allow it to see up to 1,000 Euro-market models here, and it’s this batch of imports that will be used to gauge whether the time is right for Renault to make the effort to federalize vehicles to meet Canadian emissions and crash safety standards.
As for the Twizy, this low-speed urban runabout would be limited to city streets. In other markets, it’s sold in two versions–one capable of a 40 km/h top speed, and another that can hit 80–but only the slower model meets Canadian regulations for a “quadricycle,” so the quicker model will be locked out, at least for now.
It’s not just the cars in question that pique our interest: Renault already has a way into North America through Nissan (the two companies partnered up in 1999 when Nissan was facing money trouble), so why bother even consider bringing back Renault? And as much as the Kangoo would be an easy sell given the popularity of such vehicles here, it seems a weird decision to import a vehicle that will compete with Nissan’s own NV200.
Strange business decision or not, the first Twizy models will hit Canadian pavement late this year; the Kangoo would come after that, but it’s not clear how soon it will be available. Both vehicles will be distributed by Azra, a Montreal electric-vehicle owners network.