History of Renault S.A: French multinational automobile manufacturer

In February 1899 Renault was created by The Renault brothers (Louis, Marcel and Fernand) assisted by two friends (Thomas Evert and Julian Wyer). Louis Renault was born in Paris on February 12, 1877.

Following preparatory studies at Ecole Monge, Louis failed the entrance exam for the elite national engineering school, Ecole Centrale. He seized the opportunity to indulge in his passion for machines.

In the autumn of 1898, upon his return from military service, he built his first little car or Renault Voiturette, equipped with an original “direct drive” transmission system. The system of chains and belts that earlier builders had used to transfer energy to the wheels was replaced by a gearbox and differential, directly linked to the rear axle by a crankshaft and two universal joints. It was an elegant solution, typical of Louis Renault.

Renault Voiturette was the first ever produced automobile. It was designed by Louis Renault and manufactured between 1898 and 1903. The name was used for five different models.

On December 24, 1898, at a Christmas party in Montmartre, Louis demonstrated the advantages of this motorcar by driving up steep Rue Lepic. The vehicle performed so convincingly that his friends immediately pledged funds to the venture, placing orders for twelve copies of the Voiturette.

He and his brothers Fernand and Marcel then built a series of small cars and formed the automobile firm Renault Frères (“Renault Brothers”). Renault vehicles attracted much attention by winning numerous road races until Marcel was killed during a Paris-Madrid run in 1903.

Renault’s victories in many automobile races across Europe were its best advertisement. Seeing this, the Renault brothers did not hesitate to quickly expand their commercial network, both in the domestic market (where Renault had more than 100 commercial agents only five years after its establishment) and abroad.

From 1905, the young factory received an order for 205 taxis and adopted mass production techniques.

The first commercial agents were established in London and Milan as early as 1900. Shortly afterwards, more agents were added in Chicago, New York, Vienna, Buenos Aires, and Berlin.

At the end of World War II, the company was nationalized (largely caused by the alleged collaboration with the Nazi enemy). Louis Renault died in prison in October 1944; he had been accused of collaborating with the Nazi occupation. His company was nationalized a few months later.

From 1945, the Renault brothers company implemented new production sites and modernized its plans. Between 1950 and 1975 Renault failed to conquer the American market. However, the international expansion of Renault was launched.

Renault is privatized again in the 1990s in order to revive its brand after the disastrous decade of 1980.
History of Renault S.A: French multinational automobile manufacturer

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