Sunday 26 May 2019

Refurbs at Renault

Steve Banner paid a visit to the manufacturer’s Used Trucks factory in Bourg-en-Bresse, France

Not content with producing new vehicles, Renault Trucks has started manufacturing used ones, too. It is taking selected ex-leasing-company Euro 6 models, refurbishing them, then shipping them across to its heavy truck assembly plant at Bourg-en-Bresse in France to have further work carried out on them in a specially-established unit.

The trucks chosen for transformation are typically no more than three to four years old and have covered no more than 480,000km. Some 200 points on the vehicles are inspected before any further work takes place on them, as is their maintenance history.

No detail is left unchecked, says the company. Data gleaned from onboard telematics systems can reveal how many hours the engine has run and how many gear changes have occurred.

Operating under the Used Trucks by Renault Trucks banner, the exercise involves targeting shortages of particular types of second-hand model.

Renault is initially focusing on tractor units that can handle some of the less arduous jobs that might be thrown at them by construction companies but can easily be deployed on inter-city trunking if the construction work runs out. Further down the weight scale, it has started turning out always-in-demand 18-tonners.

Based on the Range T 4×2, but also available as a 6×2, the T X-Road 460 comes with steel bumper bars, a strengthened cab access step, and protective grilles for the headlights. Ground clearance can be raised by up to 60mm and 315/80 R22.5 mixed-service tyres are fitted, along with a diff lock.

The Optidriver gearbox’s performance has been boosted by the addition of an off-road mode and a hand throttle. Bounce over rough ground, and you can find it difficult to keep your foot in contact with a conventional accelerator pedal.

Off-road mode means that the box does not block-change, but changes gear-by-gear instead so that the truck always has traction.

Power comes courtesy of an 11-litre 460hp diesel.

Cosmetic changes include black mirror casings, a black visor and a distinctive T X-Road logo. Customers can specify a variety of optional modifications including a hydraulic kit, a skid to protect the radiator, extra fuel tanks and LED rotating lights.

The unit is also producing the T P-Road. Having started life as a Range T unit, it is converted into a 430hp 18-tonner complete with new chassis rails and a longer prop-shaft. The existing rear axle, suspension and wheels are retained.

The engineering work required takes approximately 70 hours and involves the cab being removed so the rails can be fitted, then replaced.  A lot more than mechanical changes are required, however – 200 software parameter changes are needed to make the truck think like a rigid rather than a unit, a process which takes around 30 hours.

Three different wheelbases are on offer – 5,600mm, 6,000mm or 6,500mm – and possible applications include a 21-pallet temperature-controlled body. Renault is talking to Lamberet about building one complete with a chassis-mounted refrigeration system.

The unit can also produce models tailored to the needs of driving schools and removal companies.

Unless it is going to be used to haul a trailer, 430hp is a lot of power for an 18-tonner. That may deter some purchasers who will fear excessive fuel bills – although with that amount of power on tap, the engine will not be working all that hard.

All the work done in the second-hand truck factory is to the same quality standard as the work done on the adjacent new truck assembly lines, says the company. They turned out over 25,000 vehicles in 2017, and were targeting 27,000 for 2018 at the time of writing.

“Our new truck research and development and design teams are now working on used too,” says senior vice-president, Used Trucks, Emmanuel Duperray.

How about prices?

A tractor unit is likely to set you back around £44,000 depending on the exact specification. That places it at the premium end of the second-hand market while remaining cheaper than the equivalent new model.

Finance can be arranged, says Renault, along with a service contract, and the trucks are covered by a one-year/160,000km driveline warranty.

The used operation’s output is steadily expanding, from some 200 in 2017 to approaching 400 in 2018. The 2019 total is likely to reach 800 with a lead time of around seven weeks.

Around two per cent of the vehicles are taken and subjected to an exhaustive analysis by quality experts to ensure that standards are being maintained.

Other models will emerge depending on demand.

A 26-tonne three-axle rigid is a possibility by the end of 2019 but would probably have to be converted from a 4×2 tractor unit. A typical 6×2 would not be practical because the mid-lift axle could not be re-used.

Renault’s ultimate aim is for around 10 per cent of the new vehicles it produces to be recycled through the Used Trucks plant.

It is already encouraging customers who buy new to specify their purchases in line with the needs of the second-hand market. If they do, then the buy-back price they are offered is likely to be more generous.

Manufacturing used trucks to a high standard should help buoy up the brand’s residuals overall, calculates Renault – and give dealers something other to sell than a plain white fleet-spec 6×2 tractor unit with a low-height sleeper cab.

Some of the transformation work on right-hand-drive models may ultimately be done in Britain – dispatching trucks to France then bringing them back doesn’t come cheap – but is unlikely to include extensive chassis modifications.

Says UK national sales and brand manager, Used Trucks, Neil Willis: “Initially we’re taking seven T X-Roads – they’re 6x2s – and six T P-Roads and we’ll see what demand is like.”

The fact that they are Euro 6 – and are immediately available – is bound to spark interest given the requirements imposed by the London Ultra Low Emission Zone due in April: not to mention the standards set by the clean air zones scheduled to be rolled out elsewhere in the country.

Renault lists the used trucks it has on sale online (at www.used-renault-trucks.com), and plans to launch its own e-commerce online store in 2020.

Willis would like to see a T X-Road with an ADR conversion.

“There’s a good demand for them,” he comments.

At the same time, Renault is heavily promoting the range of remanufactured replacement parts it produces at a dedicated factory in Limoges, France, under the eXchange banner. The plant started remanufacturing as far back as 1964, and has been fully dedicated to the task since 2001.

The portfolio embraces everything from engines, gearboxes and turbochargers to starter motors, water pumps and alternators, and is expanding. Electronic components, including ECUs, are likely to figure increasingly on the list, and new Renault parts are being designed with remanufacturing in mind.

Remanufacturing is environmentally-friendly; the environmental impact is up to 60 per cent lower than that of producing a new part, says Renault. “It uses 90 per cent less energy than making a new component and 80 per cent of the part concerned – the core in other words – is re-used,” says senior vice-president, aftermarket, Gilles Clement.

It also saves operators money.  Prices are from 30 to 60 per cent lower than those charged for new Renault spares says the manufacturer, but eXchange components come with the same two-year warranty as new ones.

“We’ve got more than 2,000 remanufactured parts available and they account for 15 per cent of our replacement parts business,” says Clement.

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