In 2008, Renault celebrated 110 years of existence. We look back at more than a century of history with a few key dates.

Louis Renault in 1926

1898-1918: a leading industrial firm comes into being


  • 1877: Louis Renault is born.
  • 1898: first Renault Voiturette, fitted with direct-drive transmission, the Type A.
  • 1899: Renault Frères is founded by Louis’ two brothers, Marcel and Fernand.
  • 1900: the world’s first saloon arrives on the market, the Type B.
  • 1902: Renault produces its first engine and files a patent for the first turbo.
  • 1903: the sales network expands and the first subsidiaries are set up outside France.
  • 1905: Renault takes orders for 250 taxis in Paris and for exports to London, New York and Buenos Aires. The firm starts mass production.
  • 1909: following the death of Louis Renault’s two brothers, Renault Frères becomes Société des Automobiles Louis Renault.
  • 1913: the factory has almost 5,000 employees. The first strikes take place, in protest against the principles of Taylorism.
  • 1914-18: Renault contributes to the war effort, supplying trucks, ambulances, aircraft engines… and the FT 17, the first light machine-gun tank.


1918-1929: the roaring twenties set the stage for success


  • 1921-29: years of great creativity 

- Diversified production: passenger cars and commercial vehicles, boat and aircraft engines, motor units, etc...

- The 10CV and 40CV enjoy great success.

- Around thirty subsidiaries are set up in other countries.


  • 1922: Renault becomes Société Anonyme des Usines Renault. The first assembly line is set up.
  • 1927: Renault starts naming its cars.

La Juvaquatre

1929-1945: lost illusions


  • 1929: Renault moves to Billancourt. After the stock market crash, rigorous management and diversified production are the order of the day. 
  • 1936: The Front Populaire wins the elections in France; Renault symbolizes the struggle to improve workers’ rights. Production reaches a record-beating 61,146 vehicles but the company makes its first major net loss.
  • 1937: the Juvaquatre is launched.
  • 1939-44: the Billancourt factory is occupied by the Germans and forced to repair French tanks requisitioned by the Germans. Louis Renault dies in 1944.


1945-1955: Renault, a company owned by France


  • 1945: the French government nationalizes Renault. Pierre Lefaucheux takes over the management of Régie Nationale des Usines Renault.
  • 1946: launch of the 4CV, an eminently popular car.
  • 1952-55: Renault expands outside France and in its colonial markets; Pierre Dreyfus is appointed to head the company.

Pierre Lefaucheux

1955-1975: a company in the throes of change


  • 1955: Pierre Lefaucheux dies in a road accident and is replaced by Pierre Dreyfus.
  • 1956-60: the Dauphine replaces the 4CV. Its failure in the US leads to an industrial, financial and social crisis.
  • 1964-1970: the Renault 8 Gordini enjoys great sporting success.
  • May 1968: Renault is the barometer for workers’ protests in France: after a 33-day strike, wages are increased and the working week is cut by one hour.
  • 1972-73: the R5 makes its debut, and goes on to account for 60% of sales after the first oil shock.


1975-1986: euphoria and shock


  • 1975: managed by Bernard Vernier-Palliez, Renault now comprises the state-owned Régie (104,000 employees) and the subsidiaries set up through diversification (118,500 employees).
  • 1976: founding of Renault Sport.
  • 1980: Renault is Europe’s leading vehicle manufacturer.
  • 1981-84: Bernard Hanon becomes President of Renault. An alliance is set up with US manufacturer AMC. Despite losses, the Group launches the R25, the Super-Cinq and – more particularly – Espace.
  • 1985-1986: the company is facing bankruptcy. President Georges Besse introduces a policy of simplicity and diversification. He is assassinated by “Action Directe”, a group of left-wing fanatics.  Raymond-Haim Lévy takes his place.

Renault 19 in Douai factory (1992)

1987-1992: renaissance


  • 1987: Renault is back in the black with profits of FF 3.7 billion.
  • 1989: Renault posts a profit of almost FF 9 billion and makes its return to F1.
  • 1990: an alliance is announced with Volvo, but the news does not go down well in Sweden.
  • 1991: Clio makes its debut and is voted Car of the Year. Renault is Germany’s leading importer.
  • 1989-1992: major reforms are carried out to cut workforce numbers, limit production and modernize the plants and network.


1992-2005: a new identity for Renault



  • 1992: the Billancourt plant closes. Louis Schweitzer becomes President of Renault.
  • 1992-1997: Renault takes six consecutive F1 world championship titles. Twingo, Mégane and Laguna arrive on the market.
  • 1994: the proposed merger with Volvo falls through. The French government opens Renault to outside capital.
  • 1996: Renault is privatized. The Group extends its presence in Brazil, Argentina and Turkey.
  • 1997: the Vilvoorde plant is closed down. Renault withdraws from F1. Scénic is Car of the Year.
  • 1998: Renault celebrates its centenary with the slogan “Renault, 100 years of driving innovation”. The Guyancourt Technocentre opens its doors.
  • 1999: Renault signs an Alliance with Nissan and takes over Romania’s Dacia.
  • 2000: Renault becomes the main shareholder of Volvo (20%). A new entity is set up, Renault Samsung Motors.
  • 2001: Renault acquires the Benetton team and returns to F1.
  • 2003: the Renault-Nissan Alliance is the world’s fourth biggest vehicle manufacturer.

Z.E. Concept

2005-2008: Renault Commitment 2009


  • 2005: Carlos Ghosn replaces Louis Schweitzer.
  • 2006: presentation of Renault Commitment 2009.
  • 2008: initiatives to promote electric vehicles: partnerships with Project Better Place and EDF, presentation of a Scénic prototype powered by a fuel cell and the concept car Z.E. Concept (for Zero Emission).

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