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Captur killed Renault R4 revival
Renault seriously considered a post-modern retro rehash of famous R4
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10 May 2013
By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in FRANCE
RENAULT says bringing the new Captur to market has come at the cost of making a modern successor to one of its most iconic models , the R4 – at least for the time being.
Captur program manager Christophe Pejout revealed to GoAuto in France this week that discussions were well advanced for a post-modern R4 successor, before a change in senior management sidetracked the project indefinitely.
In short, previous management had championed a retro throwback to the R4, while new operational and design leaders favoured a more forward-looking strategy, exemplified by the Captur.
As part of the R4’s 50th anniversary in 2011, Renault even launched an international design competition called “Renault4Ever” to see who could create a worthy successor. It attracted nearly 3300 entries from over 90 countries.
However, according to Mr Pejout, the new R4 project was put on ice indefinitely when Renault’s chief operating officer, Patrick Pelata, stepped down abruptly in April 2011 following an embarrassing ‘spy case’ scandal surrounding future electric vehicle plans.
By September the following year he had left the company entirely.
While Mr Pelata was said to have personally championed a reborn R4 in the mould of the contemporary Volkswagen Beetle and Fiat 500, his successor as COO, Carlos Tavares, has gone the other way.
Mr Tavares implemented a forward-looking strategy designed to increase Renault’s growth in international markets, presence in new technologies such as electric vehicles, and overall competitiveness. “A new ‘R4’ was one of Patrick Pelata’s projects,” Mr Pejout said. “He was a big fan of classic cars.” He added that former Mazda designer Laurens van den Acker, who replaced Patrick le Quément as senior vice president of Renault Corporate Design, was also behind the decision to abandon work on the new R4.
“Laurens van den Acker stopped the R4… for the crossover,” Mr Pejout said.
Launched in July 1961, the production R4 was an affordable and utilitarian family vehicle designed to take on the best-selling Citroen 2CV.
With its five-door wagonette shape and front-wheel drive, it is widely regarded as the first mainstream hatchback, and went on to sell a million by early 1966. Renault Australia even built the car in Heidelberg, Victoria, for a brief time.
Production lasted right through to 1992, when the pioneering Twingo sub-B segment city car replaced it.
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