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Renault design dons ‘international’ flavour

Department of youth: Renault’s new Clio features large headlights because it is “the younger member of the family” from Paris.

New Clio look is to be adapted across the Renault range for a family look

Renault logo16 Oct 2012

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in PARIS

RENAULT aims to emulate Audi in bringing a strong visual bond between every model in the future, but without going so far as to be a clone of one another.

Using cues defined by the recently unveiled new-generation Clio due in Australia later in 2013, the new look will spearhead a complete range overhaul over the next three years.

Renault design chief Laurens Van den Acker said the provocative styling of a decade ago will be sidestepped for a more international yet “sensual” look meant to broaden the appeal of every vehicle from the Twingo up to the largest commercial vehicle.

“The Clio is more than just a launch of a car,” he told Australian journalists at the Paris motor show. “It is the launch of the brand, and the big change that we are going to do.

“When I started three years ago, the company asked me to open a new chapter, to really start with a white sheet of paper, and I must say that is a chance that you don’t often get with a big car company.

“It was scary and irresistible at the same time. I did not sleep well at the beginning, but after the reception now of the Clio I hope I can sleep a bit better.”

 center imageLeft: Renault Clio RS Clio wagon.

One of Mr Van den Acker’s first briefs after being recruited from Mazda in mid-2009 was to co-ordinate Renault’s styling.

“We came from a phase where every car had its own look.

“Now, if that’s one end of the spectrum, and the other is like Audi where every car is copy cloning – which works for them because they’re a premium brand and very product specific – I want to go two-thirds that way.

“Renault is a generalist brand where we do everything from a Twingo up to a Trafic. It’s a very large and diverse portfolio, so the goal is to keep the logo that’s big and vertical, we keep the little jiggle in the hood to help position it, but I can play with the size of the grille if I need more elegance or more robustness or more air, and I can play with the headlights if I want a small car or a serious mean car.

“The Clio is definitely younger the headlights are bigger because it’s like the younger member of the family. The higher up we go with our cars the more serious they will get.” Along with a host of Clio derivatives – including a wagon, Renaultsport hot hatch version, and a closely related crossover to tackle the highly successful Nissan Juke – expect to see the new look rolled out across the next-generation Twingo, Laguna, Espace and Megane ranges by the end of 2015.

“After the Clio IV – and by now you’ve also seen the Estate and the RS versions – early next year we will be launching the small segment SUV, and we will be launching that in Geneva,” said Mr Van den Acker.

“After that we will be renewing the rest of the line-up, so I hope in the next two to three years, when you are entering a Renault showroom it will be a completely different experience from what we have now.

“The next Megane, it is interesting because we are doing it right now. And the question is: Is it the big brother of the Clio or the small brother of the Laguna? “I think that somebody that is driving a Megane is actually looking at moving up. He is aspiring. So the Megane will definitely be more mature, but we are trying to keep the sensuality we found in the new Clio.

“If I have a look around at the (Paris) show, I would say that it is making Renault look more different than any other manufacturer.” However, Mr Van den Acker promises no more divisive design, such as the controversial ‘big bottomed’ Megane of 2002 to 2008.

“I’m trying to respect the fact that we’re a popular brand, and I don’t see that as a negative, I see it as a positive thing.

“If you’re popular, it means you have to be attractive to a lot of people. I don’t want to treat Renault as an elite brand. If we were only selling 1000 cars a year we could be as provocative as we’d want. But if you have to sell up to three million cars each year, we need to be liked.

“I think the Clio is a very good example, where we managed to make a car that doesn’t look like our direct competition and yet is liked by a lot of people. It’s not a contradiction that making a car that a lot of people like is necessarily boring.

“I want to now put a solid family of vehicles together and I want the Megane to fit. Clio is still a university student, Megane is a kid that starts working for three years, and the Laguna is the executive. That’s how I imagine these vehicles. I want them to look like family, but I don’t want them to lose their sportiness and sensuality.

“I really wanted to put a stronger face on the Clio because I felt we lacked a certain coherence in the marketplace.

“It’s OK when you’re in France and every third car is a Renault, but once you leave Europe and once you get to new markets, if you don’t have a strong face you are invisible if you have only two per cent of market share.

“So it was definitely a priority on the agenda, and with this new face we’ve been able to put it on the Twingo Phase II, the Espace in Phase IV, the Zoe EV electric vehicle, which was done earlier but is well integrated, and we’ll do a Phase III on the (existing) Megane (due next year), so you have a complete coherence.

“That’s always the trouble when you change direction. It takes time for the rest of the range to follow suit, but we want to shorten that as much as possible.

“The reality is that the last couple of years Renault’s image has degraded and so I think creating a stronger face and identity will hopefully help us to fight back.”

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