PARIS - Renault SA says it can reduce product development times to just two years by using digital software.
The third-generation Clio was developed in 28 months, the French automaker's quickest time to date. The previous-generation Clio, introduced in 1998, took 49 months.
"We will reduce development time further," says Jacques Prost, Renault small-cars program manager. "I can see future vehicles being developed within 24 months."
The second generation of the Renault Twingo minicar won't set a speed record for development time. CEO Carlos Ghosn has ordered the carmaker's designers and engineers to rework the design.
Ghosn's decision will delay the Twingo's introduction until 2007 and cost the carmaker as much as 60 million euros, or about $73 million at current exchange rates.
But the replacement for the lower-medium Megane, due around 2009, might break the new Clio's record.
Shorter development times save carmakers money. For example, the Clio's 28-month development program helped contain the development investment at $1.16 billion, Renault says. This represented a
$198 million savings compared with the previous Clio.
Prost says new-generation digital software coming to the market will save even more time, both in engineering and in designing tools for the vehicle's components. It typically takes eight months to order and make tooling. This time might be cut by half, he says.
Digital software makes modifications easier. When a designer makes a single change, the software automatically triggers a recalculation of the whole architecture of the object being designed.
Renault also reduced development time for the Clio by sharing basic components with other vehicles from Renault and its alliance partner Nissan Motor Co. The Clio was developed on the same platform as the Renault Modus and Nissan Note small minivans and the Nissan Micra small car.