* Renault sees 20,000-40,000 2011 electric vehicle sales
* Sees over 100,000 sales per year 2012-2015
* Says project will contribute to profitability targets
GENEVA, March 3 (Reuters) - Renault SA (RENA.PA) is pushing ahead with its electric vehicle project amid a widespread industry crisis and sticking to a target to sell 20,000-40,000 electric cars in 2011, the year they will go on sale.
The group expects that number to rise to over 100,000 per year between 2012 and 2015, electric vehicle program director Thierry Koskas said in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday.
Koskas said the group will sell four electric vehicles — a “C” segment sedan known as the Fluence, an electric version of the Kangoo, a 5-seater city vehicle due at the end of 2011 or start of 2012, and a a fourth vehicle, also aimed at customers wanting a car for short journeys.
Two of the four vehicles will be produced in France, Koskas confirmed. The vehicles will use batteries developed by alliance partner Nissan Motor Co Ltd (7201.T) in collaboration with NEC Tokin Corp 6759.T, Koskas said.
Early markets for the cars will be Israel, Denmark, France and Portugal.
Koskas said the group expects to announce more collaborations with an unspecified number of European countries during 2009. The group also expects to reveal more details of a partnership with French electricity provider EDF (EDF.PA) by June, he said.
The automobile crisis, while decimating demand for new cars and forcing Renault to drop its once-sacrosanct 2009 profitability targets, has not had an impact on its electric vehicle projects, Koskas said.
“I think that there are electricity providers, governments, public bodies that have had the vision to say that we will come out of the crisis; and therefore the day we come out of the crisis, the landscape will change — CO2 worries, energy resources, clean cities and so on are even more in the spotlight.”
Koskas said profitability for the electric cars would be “in the same zone” as for comparable standard cars. Renault Chief Operating Officer Patrick Pelata said last month that the group was focused on generating a positive free cash flow in 2009, after it announced a 78 percent drop in 2008 net profit and scrapped its 2009 profitability targets. (Reporting by Helen Massy-Beresford and Matthias Blamont, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)