INTERVIEW Renault SA MD Shumani Tshifularo: challenges in the shift to an electric future
Shumani Tshifularo hails from a village outside Thohoyandou, Limpopo. He is a chartered accountant and his work experience includes CFO at a local airline, a stint in the heavy machinery leasing sector and posts in several divisions at the Motus Group.
WORKING HIS WAY UP
In 2007, Tshifularo was Africa operations MD of Eqstra Fleet Management, and in 2009 he became CFO of Toyota Forklifts — another division — and then MD.
He left the group briefly in 2019, and rejoined Kia SA as its commercial director. The Korean car brand, along with Hyundai, Mitsubishi and Renault, forms part of the Motus vehicle import division that represents 23 passenger and commercial original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in SA.
His stint at Kia lasted a year before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Thereafter, he joined Renault SA as commercial director, leading the project to convert and bring to market the Renault Triber Express panel van, among other projects.
In March 2022, he succeeded former Renault SA MD Jaco Oosthuizen, who now leads the Motus Group in Australia.
Growing the Renault brand forms a large part of his immediate responsibilities. The company ranks in the top 10 best-sellers nationally. A focus is on strengthening model numbers, starting with the new Renault Captur. It’s an important and popular model with SA customers. The Austral SUV, which is the perfect replacement for the Kadjar, is not confirmed.
Another model in contention is the Renault Oroch, a half-tonne bakkie based on the Renault Duster. Market research continues on this cool-looking yet perplexing bakkie, which is more lifestyle loader than workhorse.
"We must ensure that we get the price and positioning correct before deciding if the Oroch gets the green light," says Tshifularo.
A batch of 55 Megane RS Ultime — the last model to wear the now retired Renault Sport logo — is now available for order, and though production of right-hand drive Alpines has commenced, we could not draw him into this topic. Besides, we sought a more interesting local angle.
Efforts to launch the Renault Arkana SUV in 2024 are at an advanced stage, and this will mark Renault’s first foray into electrified mobility in this market. Dacia is the Romanian-born sister brand of Renault, and it markets a technical twin of the popular Renault Kwid, now with a fully electric version.
Is the brand not picking up on the opportunity to sell affordable electric cars in SA?
Tshifularo says his team is looking at various solutions, but there are challenges, especially load-shedding. He recently commuted around Paris in the all-electric Renault Zoe city car and says there were some issues, mostly nonfunctioning street-charging stations. So, it seems some European grids are not coping with demand.
Another challenge with the electric Kwid is pricing. Prices start at & x20AC;17,000 (R333,000). This is about R100,000 more expensive than the priciest Kwid in this market. It would be unattainable and pointless to the Kwid’s customer base, says Tshifularo
2035 FOSSIL FUEL BAN
With Europe set on banning the manufacture of fossil fuel cars by 2035, Tshifularo outlines what he foresees will be the saving grace for markets behind the electric curve. He says the majority of Renaults sold in SA are built and sourced from India, and he anticipates this arrangement will continue beyond 2035.
He says there is talk of some of the Indian assembly plants already planning affordable new energy vehicles by then. Based on these outcomes, perhaps there will be something small, fully electric and suitable for our market conditions.
MD of Renault SA, Shumani Tshifularo. Picture: SUPPLIEDThe Dacia Spring is the electric essence of the popular Kwid, but it's too costly to consider for this market. Picture: SUPPLIEDThe Renault Oroch bakkie is displayed at Renault SA's Bruma head office.Picture: PHUTI MPYANE The Dacia Spring is the electric version of the popular Kwid, but it’s too costly to consider for this market.Renault SA MD, Shumani Tshifularo. Right: The Renault Oroch bakkie is displayed at Renault SA’s Bruma head office.