Vilvoorde Renault Factory
Renault Industrie Belgique S.A. / Renault Industrie België N.V., officially shortened with the acronym RIB, opened in 1931 as an auto-assembly plant owned and operated by Renault in Vilvoorde on the northern edge of Brussels in Belgium. It was the manufacturer's first plant to be located outside France.
Automobile production at Vilvoorde came to an abrupt end in 1997, with the loss of approximately 3,500 jobs, and in the face of much public opposition from and on behalf of those affected.
Production began in 1931, the plant’s first year of operation, although at this stage only a few thousand cars per year were made. The models in question were the manufacturer's Monaquatre and Primaquatre. The plant's first volume model, introduced in the late 1930s and still assembled at Vilvoorde until 1955, was the Renault Juvaquatre, which competed in a hotly contested market segment against cars such as the Peugeot 202 and the Opel Kadett. Production of the estate version of the Juvaquatre, badged as the Renault Dauphinoise, continued until 1960. In the meantime a second volume model, the new rear engine Renault Dauphine was added to the lines. By 1960, Vilvoorde had become very much more than an assembly operation, producing its own axle components, exhaust systems and body panels.
At the start of the 1960s the old Dauphinoise was finally taken out of production, to be replaced on the Belgian production line by the much more modern Renault R4 (later rebranded as the Renault 4). In 1962, Renault installed a third production line which was used to assemble the Rambler-Renault Classic. This was one of several collaborations between Renault and American Motors during the 1960s and 1970s. In 1967, the Classic was replaced at the Vilvoorde plant with the Rambler-Renault Rebel. In volume terms, however, the Renault designed models outnumbered the Rambler designs, with overall production in the late 1960s, running at around 100,000 cars annually. By that time, the Dauphine had been taken out of production, to be replaced on the Vilvoorde lines with the Renault 6.
In the early 1970s, Vilvoorde ended production of Ramblers, their place in the factory being taken over by the Renault R12. The 1973 oil crisis triggered large fuel price rises which gave Renault, with a range of relatively small and economical cars, an enormous competitive advantage. The Renault 12 remained in production until 1976, to be replaced in the Belgian assembled range by the Renault 14.
During the 1980s output was dominated by smaller models, including the Renault 5 Turbo. A mid-sized model returned to Vilvoorde in 1986 with the arrival of the Renault 21. Other models produced at Renault’s Belgian plant in the 1990s included the small Clio and the compact Mégane models.
The end of auto-assembly at Vilvoorde
The ending of auto-assembly at Vilvoorde in 1997 led to the loss of around 3,500 jobs, along with strikes, street protests and political disputes. Adverse publicity included a 1999 film by Jan Bucquoy entitled “Fermeture de l'usine Renault à Vilvoorde” (Closure of the Renault factory at Vilvoorde). In this fictional work Renault chairman Louis Schweitzer, who had taken a high-profile role in the plant closure, is kidnapped for purposes of blackmail, and later murdered. In real life Schweitzer remained unkidnapped and at the helm of Renault till 2005: he is still alive in 2013.
Following the high-profile end to auto-production, the plant was modernised and is again functioning, but only for the production of car-components. Approximately 500 workers are employed in 2013.
Cars produced at the Renault Vilvoorde plant can be identified from the Vehicle Identification Number, in which the eleventh position on the Vilvoorde cars is taken by the letter “H”.
- Due to the bilingual character of Brussels, French and Dutch language names both appear regularly in sources.
- Bruyninckx, Hans (28 March 1997). "The closure of Renault-Vilvoorde". Eurofound.europa.eu. Retrieved 9 August 2013.