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Radical Renault style to stay

Megane wait: The Megane II will not be available in Australia until October 2003.

Far from apologising for Renault's innovative new design direction, company officials say there will be more of it

Renault logo9 Oct 2002

By MARTON PETTENDY

GET used to Renault's radical new styling direction.

Senior Renault officials believe a continuous flow of interesting new models - each featuring an exclusive new variation of the radical design pioneered by Renault's flagship Vel Satis and the new Megane hatch - is the key to sales success.

Speaking at the Paris motor show, Renault senior vice-president of corporate design Patrick Le Quement made no apologies for Renault's revolutionary new design language. In fact, he thinks more regular delivery of innovative new car designs is crucial to the company's fortunes.

"In France there is something noble about being revolutionary," he said.

"We have a history of doing innovative designs. Over the last few years we've got back to innovative design and have been doing that on a more regular basis.

"We had in the past found that there were large gaps between one innovative product (and another). And now we've got on a more regular basis interesting and I think sometimes quite intelligent cars.

"Some of the cars that we're doing have altered the mission of contributing to change the image of Renault, which really needed changing, so they are in fact real missionaries and they have a role which is a lot more than one imagines.

"We have a lot of people today who look at the Megane and say now 'we understand what you're doing', so that's a good sign," said Mr Le Quement, who penned the XF Falcon during his 17 years with Ford before joining Renault.

"But there is not the same message for Vel Satis as there is for Megane. With Vel Satis it's a small volume vehicle. You must remember that lifetime production of Vel Satis is the equivalent of one year's production of the E-class Mercedes," he said.

"Basically, if we are the specialists, they are the generalists when it comes to design in the upper segment. With Vel Satis we wanted to make a design statement which is we're not making a me too product.

"It's pointless to make a me too or me three product because if people want to buy a Mercedes they'll buy a Mercedes.

"So it made good sense to offer an alternative, which is a radically different type of product which is not oriented toward speed and high performance, but is to do with comfort, travel and ease of life."Renault chairman Louis Schweitzer agreed product-led momentum was the most important factor in the company's performance, including in fledgling Renault markets like Australia - for which he described the current 12-month wait for new models as unacceptable.

"A number of changes have happened at Renault over the last few years and I believe that from a strategic point of view what we've done is what was required," he said.

"What is very essential is for the group - Renault and Nissan - to have a continuously increasing momentum over time, product-wise, marketing-wise, in all fields.

"It's important not to have something that people will say 'this is going to end', then an interim period in which nobody knows what will happen, then we start again and we have six months where everyone is looking around, waiting to see what will happen next. So you don't stop."So just how innovative can Renault get? "Clearly it is different if you have a niche model or a volume model," said Mr Schweitzer.

"In some cases we go a bit more extreme, for example the Laguna II in my opinion is a strong design but in my view is not extreme. If you compare it to previous models, it's not as mainstream but I wouldn't call it extreme."Mr Schweitzer said the new product policy had already reaped rewards, pointing to the European sales success of Vel Satis and the booming small hatch market, in which the Megane II has just replaced the original Megane as Renault's representative. But the new Megane will not be available in Australia until October 2003.

"We are very much committed to this (Australia) and the commitment will be to bring the delay back from 12 months to between three and six month," Mr Schweitzer said.

"Less than three months in every case I would not be comfortable in promising, but three to six months should be realistic. I'm afraid to say 12 months is a bit too long to wait," said Mr Schweitzer, who will be succeeded as Renault chief executive in 2005 by Nissan president and CEO Carlos Ghosn.

WHAT'S COMING

2003
April: Trafic medium commercial
June: Vel Satis luxury hatch
October: Megane II small hatch2004
Espace large people-mover
Kangoo light commercial
Master large commercial
Megane II coupe/convertible
Scenic II compact people-mover

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