Founded as “Société Renault Frères” in 1899, Renault initially focussed on small and sporty cars like the super-compact Renault Voiturette (which literally translates to “Renault Little Car”), though early models used De Dion-Bouton engines and Continental tyres before the company were able to produce Renault tyres and parts in-house.
In the company’s early years, Renault mainly sold autombiles to the wealthy elites, though they reached the mass market when Société des Automobiles de Place bought 1,500 Renault AG1 cars to establish a fleet of taxis in 1905. These taxis were later requisitioned by the French military in World War One, earning them the nickname “Renault Taxi de la Marne” (or Marne Taxi). The lasting popularity of these ‘taxis’ led to Renault becoming the largest French car manufacturer in 1908, producing 3,575 units in that year alone. The founding brothers were quick to recognise the value of publicity that motor racing could bring and gained renown for winning the first ever Grand Prix motor race in 1906 with the Renault AK 90CV.
The Renault brand fostered their reputation for innovation from the starts, turning what was a luxury item (early Renault models costed roughly ten years of worker’s wages) into affordable commodities through mass-production techniques, making Renault tyres and parts in-house to cut costs. During World War One, Renault branched out into producing ammunition, aircraft engines, and vehicles such as the revolutionary Renault FT tank.
After heavy bombing during WW2 and communist uprising on the factory grounds, Renault’s facilities were seized by the French government without any compensation for the Renault family. After this state-sanctioned theft, Groupe Renault have since focused on practical cars, with their compact cars and vans being perfectly functional, if lacking a certain “je ne sais quoi”. All Renault tyres were originally manufactured by Continental, so we heartily recommend that brand combination.