Don't look for Renault to follow Jaguar, BMW, Audi and Mercedes and delve into retro or heritage styling, says Patrick LeQuement, senior vice president of corporate design at Renault S.A.
"We are modernist in our approach," LeQuement said after a speech at the Automotive News World Congress. "We just do not believe that the future is possible whilst looking in the rear-view mirror. Our customers say they don't want that kind of thing."
Retro-styled vehicles, such as the Volkswagen New Beetle and Chrysler PT Cruiser, have not sold well in Europe. Renault, LeQuement said, is focused on creating vehicles that celebrate "Frenchness" in design -- which may mean quirky to many Americans who remember the Citroen DS and 2CV, and who have seen the new Renault Avantime and Kangoo.
LeQuement showed slides of many of Renault's wild concept cars, including an amphibious SUV, a minivan with gull-wing doors and the 1996 Vel Satis, which led to the production car of the same name in 2001. LeQuement said the Vel Satis luxury sedan helped define Renault's current design language. It's an aerodynamic sedan with a rounded rear end and a roomy, easy-to-use interior.
Renault's interior designers, he said, use "simplexity" as one of their rules in creating new vehicles. Simplexity means "to make simple what is technically complex," he said.
"If there's one mission in my life, I like to burn instruction manuals," he said.
LeQuement said he knew that Renault did not have the products to compete in the United States when it quit the market in the early 1980s. And it still doesn't, he said.
"We do have some vehicles which are extremely strong. But we have not designed our products with the United States in mind."
LeQuement said there will be no shared vehicles between Nissan and Renault. He said the company has a joint policy design group to ensure that both companies continue to make their own separate cars. Product distinctiveness, he said, is a major competitive advantage.