The Slovenia Times

Renault 4 - The Small Giant of Novo Mesto


The legendary Renault 4, which sold eight million units over its long history, is the automobile equivalent of Levi's blue jeans. Designed in 1956 by Pierre Dreyfus, the car has become nothing less than an icon. Dreyfus wanted a car that was just like a pair of jeans - rebellious, unisex and egalitarian, multi-functional, durable, and inexpensive; useable in both the city and the countryside; during the week and at weekends; for business and for pleasure. After five years of development, he cemented his idea. The Renault 4 was a two-volume vehicle with a combined cabin/boot able to respond to the different needs of everyday life. The independent suspension made it easy to drive on dirt roads and highways, and its minimal maintenance made it attractive to all consumers.

An international destiny

The Renault 4 arrived in 1961 and instantly seduced the French market. But Dreyfus saw it as a weapon of conquest for international markets and started a strategy of commercial implementation. The impact was immediate. In 1962, Renault had 7,500 orders for the Renault 4 in France and nearly 5,000 in Europe. The democratisation of automobiles in the 70s, full employment, salary increases and the emergence of the middle class were all central to Renault 4's market expansion. To satisfy the increasing demand from the European market, the production rate at the main Renault factory in Île Seguin had to be quickly ramped up.

From importation to local assembly

Following certain legal changes in 1964, Renault was able to import and sell between 2,000 and 5,000 cars per year in Yugoslavia to customers holding foreign currency. In September 1972, Renault struck a deal with Yugoslavian authorities to begin assembling the Renault 4 and 16 TS at the Titovi Zavodi Litostroj in Ljubljana and then at Industrija Motornih Vozil which is today known under the name of Revoz. At the time, IMV owned a modern assembly plant in Novo Mesto where Adria caravans were produced for export to Europe. In return, Renault had to submit to complete local assembly in order to support the local workforce.

Nicknamed "Katrca" as a reference to its French name "quatre", and affectionately called "The Little Giant", the R4 quickly became a popular car, responding to the goal of mobility and the essential notion of cars as tools. Ivo Kambič, president of local classic car club Oldtimer klub Bela Krajina, was a witness to the "golden years" of the R4 in the former Yugoslavia when the R4 was truly a versatile vehicle. He recalls families sleeping in their cars along the Adriatic coast to avoid paying for a camping place or afternoon workers using it to transport all kind of stuff: building material, washing machines and even animals. And as Kambič points out: "The Renault 4 was really ours, because many workers from Novo Mesto gained their retirement by working in the IMV factory".
The industrial miracle called IMV produced more than half million Renault 4 cars, so becoming the number two manufacturer in Yugoslavia after Zastava. In his book "Povest o velikanu pod Gorjanci" (Tale of the Gorjanci Giant), Marjan Ivan Moškon credits the performance in large part to the company's chief executive, Juri Levičnik. Levičnik knew how to motivate his employees: they sometimes had to work double shifts without additional remuneration to respond to the big demands of the market. For his enthusiastic approach to the industrial and logistical challenges, IMV's director received the prestigious Légion d'Honneur, presented by then French President Valérie Giscard d'Estaing. Beginning in 1976, IMV began to devote its production exclusively to the R4. That continued until 1992 when the last edition named "Bye Bye" marked the end of a long and successful career. Even though later models like the R5 and the Clio have also seen great success in the Slovenian market, the fame of the small giant remains unchallenged.


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