Renault batted away the grim mid-winter with final week’s complete live-streamed turnaround plan, the punningly named Renaulution. These items are largely designed to calm restive buyers, however there have been a number of surprises, notably a new pure-electric take on the classic Renault 5, a neat Dacia concept, a brand new model of the Lada Niva, and a contemporary sub-brand known as Mobilize for individuals who hate vehicles and the considered proudly owning one however nonetheless have to get round no matter mega-city they’re dwelling in. Alpine will also be partnering with Lotus on a new electric sports car.
But it surely was the brand new 5 that obtained everybody speaking. Truly, anybody who is aware of Renault’s just lately put in CEO Luca de Meo – former Fiat and Volkswagen advertising and marketing boss, latterly president of Seat – is aware of that he has an acute sense of what a ‘model’ actually stands for, and has a penchant for pushing large emotional buttons. The Fiat 500 was largely his child, so a revival of the Renault 5 was all the time on the playing cards. Some folks bemoaned this retrogressive method; everybody else immediately determined it was a automotive they needed to have, tumbling down a rabbit-hole of glad reminiscences of a care-free time after they might really depart their home (except the automotive had damaged down). Having proven its hand unusually early within the artistic course of, now Renault has to develop and engineer the factor earlier than everybody will get bored. It may very well be 2024 earlier than we get our palms on it, and rather a lot can occur between now and then.
In the meantime, Renault has reorganised its design crew, luring top-rated expertise Gilles Vidal away from Peugeot and Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos from Seat to move up Renault and Dacia respectively. TopGear.com joined a digital media round-table to meet up with them and Group Renault design vice chairman and board member, Laurens van den Acker.
How does the so-called ‘Renaultution’ technique have an effect on the way in which the manufacturers’ design departments work?
Laurens van den Acker: I’ve been interested by this for greater than a 12 months. With the upcoming arrival of Luca, I had a sense we’d swap to a ‘model’ organisation. So now we now have a design director for every model, Gilles [Vidal] for Renault, Alejandro [Mesonero-Romanos] for Dacia, Antony Villain for Alpine, and Patrick Lecharpy for Mobilize. We’ve divided up the groups, with all of the disciplines in every model. It’s 4 completely different manufacturers across the large atelier inside Renault design.
How lengthy have you ever been planning this ‘supergroup’ of designers?
LvdA: All the things accelerated enormously with the arrival of Luca. We needed to align together with his concepts and it turned obvious that he wished to create manufacturers and enterprise models. After which the following query is, who’s going to guide these manufacturers? It was an opportunity to brainstorm with him and outline who the perfect individual was, and it was a real pleasure to do that in a short time. Designers wish to be there when change is occurring. When all the things is in chaos or turmoil is when you may actually make an impression. I admired their braveness to affix us, I’m tremendous glad they did, and I’m dying to work with them. It’s been a blast so far.
Did they take a lot persuading?
LvdA: My first query to Gilles was, are you certain you wish to come? As a result of we now have fairly a giant problem forward of us. Truly it’s nonetheless unusual to see him strolling by way of our studios, I nonetheless need to test he doesn’t have a smartphone to take footage. I labored with Alejandro 10 years in the past and inside a 12 months he left, which I all the time felt had one thing to do with me… [smiles] he had a unbelievable profession at Seat and he has a really sturdy relationship with Luca.
Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos: I began speaking to Laurens and Luca final June, and so they defined their plans and ambitions for the group. It was straightforward to persuade me, Dacia has large potential, we are able to do very rational merchandise which have the fitting feelings, and add a lot of content material. It’s an enormous problem, however that is what motivates designers, doing various things. I knew a bit in regards to the plan with Gilles, and I do know Luca very effectively. We are going to do nice vehicles, there isn’t a different method.
Does the R5 substitute the Clio?
Gilles Vidal: What do you wish to create for folks? Now could be the time to problem no matter exists at this level. The [R5] will not be meant to switch the Clio as such, however questions in regards to the Clio and Captur – what they stand for right now and tomorrow, what sort of vitality we must always put inside relying on which area or nation we’re speaking about – these things modifications day by day. So that you want to have the ability to adapt to no matter occurs, inside your international technique. So I can’t say whether or not it will really substitute something. Though the automotive trade strikes at a reasonably gradual tempo in comparison with many others, we’d like to have the ability to determine and choose instructions as late as potential. That’s the way you keep related.
LvdA: Does the Renault 5 spell the tip of the Clio? The reply isn’t any. The Clio is the best-selling automotive in its section. Is it the tip of the Zoe? The reply isn’t any, the Zoe is presently the best-selling EV in Europe. It could be foolish to cease them.
Does the 5 revival counsel that an EV must set off some form of Proustian rush to achieve critical traction? Did you contemplate reviving every other historic badges?
Gilles Vidal: there might be a lot of electrical silhouettes sooner or later line-up, a few of which might be what you would possibly name retro-futuristic. It’s as much as me to seize one of many items of historical past and create one thing that has that ‘fall in love’ impact, whereas different components of the complete EV line-up are tremendous authentic and future centered. All the things can co-exist and you may mess around along with your property. However that’s a tremendous asset, that sexiness, you don’t even assume to check with something else.
Each automotive firm is wanting on the potential they’ve. When the world will get exhausting or anxious it’s a pure reflex for people to revist good reminiscences or take into consideration what’s pleasurable. It’s true for each nation, I believe. Wanting on the potential of the Renault historical past there’s tons there, however the 5 was the apparent selection when it comes to its shapes, the reminiscences, and likewise we had been capable of combine and match between the 5, the Supercinq and the Turbo. It was the apparent selection. That mentioned, relating to EVs there might be quite a lot of choices.
LvdA: The ambition for the 5 is for it to be the well-liked electrical automotive of the longer term – and it actually must be a well-liked automotive. That is the place Renault is de facto sturdy. In a interval the place the trade is altering a lot, the place you danger turning into a banal firm as a result of everybody goes in the identical path… to make use of this richness of historical past and inform the tales that hyperlink folks to our model is an opportunity we now have that others don’t. So we’re going to abuse this. For an electrical car to develop into well-liked, you’ll want to be in a sure value band, and that is the most important problem. Reaching the most important potential quantity of shoppers. As as to whether it must be a Renault 5, 8 or 16, I counsel you let your readers vote on it. It could make our product planning rather a lot simpler.
What was the time frame on the R5 Prototype?
LvdA: We can’t conceive and design a automotive in two months. We had the R5 in our pockets, we had been simply ready for the fitting second to unleash the potential. And I can fortunately say that when Luca noticed the primary concepts he jumped on it. He actually seems to be for vehicles that pull your heartstrings. For him, this was a no brainer. What’s attention-grabbing is that after I met Gilles in October for the primary time in his official capability, the primary picture he confirmed me was the Renault 5 Turbo. So perhaps the planets had been aligning.
How will issues change in your C-segment vehicles?
LvdA: The silhouettes of our vehicles will change. Functionally the vehicles will develop in measurement, however what’s going to cease them getting too tall is aerodynamics. As a result of when you’ve made a much bigger automotive you need this greater automotive to go additional. Plenty of the silhouettes you see on the streets right now will change, and a lot for the higher as a result of it provides us an opportunity to face out. In fact it begins with proportion and good design however life goes to get very attention-grabbing within the years to come back. You’re going to see a number of a unique animals.
Renault has toyed with luxurious idea vehicles, however appears to be retreating from that section. What’s the plan there?
LvdA: In the case of the posh query, Luca’s place is to focus on the autos that may generate profits for us. Now we have an actual energy within the A and B segments, and he needs to increase the energy to the C section, the place we’re comparatively weak vis-à-vis our opponents. Alpine is extra of a sporty model, and to place the Dieppe manufacturing unit, F1 and Renault Sport collectively they’re really sturdy. It might develop into a really sturdy entity. However luxurious isn’t the place we’re anticipated to generate profits. First let’s do our homework.
Why do you want Mobilize?
LvdA: It’s completely different to Renault, Alpine or Dacia. It’s for individuals who aren’t excited by proudly owning a automotive, however are excited by mobility or accessing a service, by subscription or by paying per kilometre. It’s a very completely different enterprise case, and it’s about creating an ecosystem of autos for future clients. The enterprise mannequin must be handled otherwise. It will likely be a group of various mobility choices. All of the reviews count on this to be large enterprise in 10 or 15 years time. It’s a tough enterprise case proper now but when we don’t put our foot in it now we gained’t generate profits in 5 or 10 years time. It’s not about price reducing, it’s about including worth. As a designer, it provides richness to the portfolio. We’re additionally engaged on the left and proper aspect of the mind.