How electrification shapes Renault’s design

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Laurens van den Acker took charge of Groupe Renault design in 2009 and oversaw a successful overhaul of the Renault brand’s range. Now, under the leadership of new CEO Luca de Meo, he takes on a less practical role at the automaker as executive vice president, group design. Van den Acker spoke with Automotive news Europe Editor-in-chief Peter Sigal at the Munich auto show about his new role, the upcoming Renault Megane E-Tech Electric and future retro-influenced electric vehicles Renault 5 and Renault 4ever.

How does the compact Mégane E-Tech Electric represent Renault’s design DNA? It has an organic shape but with cutting-edge technological details.

Megane E-Tech is for me more than just a vehicle. It is also a symbol of the Renalution plan, for the intention and the vision of the company, because it is a fully electric car without compromise. And I thought it was very brave of Luca [de Meo] to call it the Mégane, because by doing that you show that there is no turning back [to internal combustion]. It is the heart of our range. It is a very important car because in order for Renault to be able to sell electric vehicles, they will be more expensive. We must improve the design, finish and quality, and give it enough material in terms of technology and sensations that [the higher price] is really justified. On the design side, it is in the middle, because it is the vehicle which is at the end of my reign at Renault design and the beginning of that of Gilles Vidal. You can see Luca’s influence already – we made a Mégane show car for him, and he made the production car as close to the show car as possible. And that had a really positive influence because he pushed the size of the wheels, he pushed the finishes, the colors.

Can you talk about the interior screen layout, in the inverted “L” position with over 700 square centimeters of almost continuous screen space from the dashboard to a deep touchscreen, except a small air vent?

What we have seen is that there is still an inflation in the size of the screen. It’s natural – if my phone is bigger than yours, I’m more modern, I’m more progressive, I’m richer. But there is an advantage. And we felt that the vertical layout is the easiest if you want to use the navigation features. The challenge for us was how to integrate the air vents in a way that feels natural.

The Google Automotive System interface is also a big step forward. The ability to use Google apps, Google Maps, Play Store, Assistant – that will really make things easier for a lot of people, right?

At the end of the day, that’s what people use in their cars. You can forget about your smartphone at home, but you will still have all your apps in your car. People will find the same digital environment in the car as in their smartphones. It’s just a fantastic USP [unique selling proposition]. There are many, many complaints about multimedia systems in cars no matter who is doing it, and 80 percent of those complaints are navigation related. By not trying to be a better navigation integrator than Google, we hope to reduce our potential complaints.


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