Refurbished smartphones have become commonplace, company car and truck tires have been retreading for many years, and thrift store shopping has gone from shabby to hip. So why not make used cars like new again? Toyota announced it some time ago and Renault has been very busy with it for about a year and a half. Refactory In the northern French town of Flins – one of the largest Renault factories, where the Zoe and Nissan Micra are currently rolling off the production line – Renault Refactory has been in full operation since the beginning of last year. Refactory is still a small part of the factory in Flins, which employs 2,100 people (600 of whom on a temporary basis), but in the long run it should have completely supplanted the declining production of new cars and by 2030 more than 3,000 people will have to work. be work. Cynics may now think of a large-scale cleaning and repair company, but that would do Refactory short, so we dive a little deeper into the different disciplines. Refactory is divided into four divisions: Re-Trofit, Re-Energy, Re-Cycle and Re-Start. Fresh and fruity It goes without saying that the used car market in the Netherlands is booming, but this is also the case in most countries around us. That makes a project like Refactory even more viable. The Factory VO (vehicules occasion) has been running since September last year and can make 45,000 used cars fresh and fruity every year. Traders from dealers but also traders Trade-in cars from Renault dealers and used dealers in the area are the input and thanks to a smart logistics system, the average turnaround time is shortened from 21 days to six days between arrival and sale-ready, whatever it is for the trader. should make it interesting. After all: cars that are in that process stand in the way and cost interest. Moreover, Renault claims that the dealer benefits from the optimal parts stock, the specific specialization of the people at Factory VO and the professional way in which the car is portrayed at the end. The area outside is full of cars between three and five years old, which have now passed the entrance check, as evidenced by the many ‘notes’ on and around damage. Once inside, specialists take care of the cars. They repair small dents, reconnect parts, replace parts, make the paint shiny again and do everything else that was needed during the check. Fully automatic photo studio Cars that have subsequently passed the final inspection continue to the fully automatic photo studio. There they roll into a booth, where 41 photos plus a 360-degree shot are taken within six minutes. While rolling in, the bottom and tire profile are scanned. The moment the car rolls out of the cabin, it is already online, visible to potential new owners. At the latest two days later, it is back in the Renault dealer’s showroom. Old batteries The second branch of Refactory is called Re-Energy and deals with the processing of old EV batteries. One of the uses for those old batteries is the BetterGen. This is a unit on a hand truck that can supply energy in places where there is no electricity, instead of the well-known generator with a combustion engine. The trolley has a modular construction and can be fitted with several battery units as desired. For heavier work, Refactory also supplies energy packages the size of sea containers. Re-Cycle overhauls used parts, both fuel engine and EV parts. Don’t just think of turbos, engine blocks and transmissions, but also infotainment systems. Renault itself says that the parts that leave this factory are as good as new, but in the meantime they are 40 percent cheaper. In addition, an overhaul saves 85 percent energy and 96 percent water compared to the production of new parts. Of course, some of the remanufactured parts go straight to Factory VO. From producing new cars to extending existing lives: it is a transition that also requires change from employees and that is the goal of the fourth branch of Refactory, Re-Start. This department focuses on retraining people to a more cyclical industry, but is also a knowledge center that works on 3D printing, building prototypes, software applications and refurbishing factory robots. Extending the service life is a business model During our visit to Renault, we spoke with Cléa Martinet, among others, who, as Director of Sustainable Development, is responsible for the road to sustainability within the Renault Group. We ask her whether extending the lifespan of existing (ICE) cars is not exactly at odds with the climate targets: “For the Refactory programme, the business model is indeed extending the life of cars and, where possible, even retrofitting the cars. The powertrain can also be replaced, making the car itself more sustainable. By extending the life of a car, you postpone the purchase of a new one. The target group of such programs mainly consists of people who are not financially strong enough to buy a new electric car. In doing so, we contribute to reducing the number of new fuel-powered cars on the road by extending the life cycle of the ones that are already there and equipping them with a cleaner engine as much as possible.” Flexibility needed Last year, Renault’s CEO Luca de Meo surprised the world by stating that the energy transition is moving too quickly, because the industry still desperately needs the profits from fuel cars to finance the development of EVs. Martinet: “When CO2 neutrality is your ultimate goal, you have to think about it carefully. Let me give you an example: grab an electric car in the C-segment, regardless of brand or origin: that’s a heavy car. Take its LCA (life cycle assessment, the full environmental impact from start to finish; ed.) and carbon footprint and do the same with, for example, a conventional Clio. Then you will find that they are approximately equal. So in order to meet the 2040 target, it is also important for the time being to continue offering small petrol cars and hybrids, because they are no more polluting than the often huge EVs that are popular today. That too is part of the transition. As an interim solution, because don’t get me wrong, there is no discussion about the end goal. But for the purchasing power, infrastructure and timeline of the industry, this flexibility is necessary for the time being. Also look further: in Europe things are going very well with EVs, but that is different in South America and India, for example. And also closer, countries like Morocco and further in Africa. I don’t see a charging station on every street corner there for the time being.” Bruno Vanel, Vice President of Product Performances, has now joined us and adds Martinet: “One of our challenges is to make the business model work without necessarily producing huge volumes, be it EVs, which is better of course, or fuel cars. . You have to look closely at the total value chain. If you can extend the life of existing cars, you need to produce fewer cars to serve the same number of users, which has a positive effect on the environmental impact.” Experiment Although profitable, Refactory in Flins is primarily an experiment for Renault. Moreover, it is quite a local affair, because the whole process of refurbishing cars is only profitable if it is done with cars from the neighborhood. Further away, transport costs quickly become too high to keep the process profitable. You need both a market and a factory. Nevertheless, Renault is already thinking about other locations. Our country is not yet on the shortlist, but Turkey, Spain and Portugal, among others, have a good chance of getting ZGAN-Renaults in the showrooms within the foreseeable future.
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