Concern on threat of Renault pullout

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 July, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 July, 1996, 12:00am


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News that car maker Renault is considering pulling out of the Australian market has sparked concern that high-profile French firms are still feeling the effects of last year's boycott.

Renault officials said this week they would announce a decision before the end of the month, in the wake of figures showing sales of only 184 cars in Australia in the first six months of the year.

The poor performance comes as a surprise, given the perception that Franco-Australian trade had largely recovered from the boycott in protest at French nuclear testing in the Pacific.

The resumption of Bastille Bay celebrations in Sydney has also been taken as an indicator that the Australian public has dropped its year-long grudge against French organisations.

'Dust off the beret. Bring out the baguette. Toss out the placards. Bastille Day is back,' began one story in the Sydney Morning Herald.

But Robert Somervaille, a spokesman for the French-Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: 'While there has been a good recovery in general trade, high-profile luxury goods and champagne are taking a little longer to recover. These were the hardest hit during the boycotts because of their visibility. They were an easy way with which to make a personal protest.' Other French car makers are also faring badly. Citroen sold only 50 vehicles in the first half of this year. Peugeot has seen sales drop by more than 40 per cent.

But Mr Somervaille stressed that recovery was almost complete in industrial sectors: 'There are French interests here in water technology, air traffic control equipment and construction . . . we are making progress on renewing dialogue . . . in the area of increased technological exchanges.'