Carlos Ghosn is a tough talker who follows through. The new président–directeur général of Renault, the man who turned around its Nissan unit, said last February that the French automaker can do better. Half its proﬁts come from France, 80 per cent from Europe, and half from a single car line, the Mégane.
I own a Mégane, and have been happy with the quality, styling and the reliability—but VP Patrick Pélata, who was with Ghosn at Nissan, reckons that the designs have been too idiosyncratic, too anti-customer. Consequently, Renault is in need of a brand image, says Ghosn; by focusing on the traditional segments it has not managed to innovate into the niches.
Renault does need ﬁxing, because if it is to be a global player, it needs to think less like a France-only ﬁrm. But this road of pleasing customers is fraught with dangers.
The last time Renault went on about creating a car for the customer, rather than taking risks and advancing things for the customer’s lifestyle, we got the 9 and 11. These two models, sold as the Alliance and Encore through AMC dealers in North America, were two of the dullest vehicles that came from the régie. For customer clinics are to be taken with a grain of salt, and even if Twingo II has not done well in them, it need not mean a wholesale change.
By all means be customer-centric, but not to the extent where progress is prevented; the designer sees a bigger picture including what customers may want. In fact, we say we want better gas mileage, maybe even a car that does away with fossil fuels altogether. We say we want a car that is environmentally friendly (Renault does have good environmental policies). Engage us in new ways that other car makers have failed to do. Take the lead on design and don’t let us hold you back, but address those big concerns that we consumers all share. Then we will ﬂock to you.
The Modus is not the cleverest car in the Opel Meriva class; the Mégane II does polarize opinions. But they have contributed to a brand that proclaims itself as the créateur d’automobiles, one that pioneers in an industry that often stiﬂes. Individuality is a great trait to have in any brand, because a brand must differentiate. The image is secure, something for Renault to build upon.
Say it pursues these niches. It should do so in a way that is very Renault, with individualistic cars. There is a way, as Ghosn and Pélata know from their time at Nissan, to achieve this goal without diluting a creative, innovative image. Nissan once made Bluebirds; now it makes Muranos.
I am a fan of design director Patrick le Quément, even if there are veiled references to him by Pélata having taken Renault design in the wrong direction. He was one of the men who took Renault, if not all of Europe, out of its design rut; European cars have a desirability that wasn’t around when Renault was churning out the 11 and 19. Le Quément himself recognizes that the Mégane II’s daring isn’t everyone’s cup of tea; his Fluence concept car shows a more cohesive, ﬂowing look, though it is a triﬂe plain, sort of an updated Floride. You can begin seeing its inﬂuences in the new Renault Clio, a new hit and another European Car of the Year winner for the ﬁrm.
I would suggest that the thing wrong with the Mégane II is that it is not an elegant car. Elegance is what unites consumers; imbalance polarizes. The Ford Falcon EA169 always was right in the details but not as a whole car that could have beneﬁted from a longer wheelbase.
Renault needs to keep an eye on just what needs ﬁxing. It is wise to do so while it is still in the black, and it does some things right. I say the brand is where it needs to be: a great place on which new, exciting products can be built to achieve M. Ghosn’s goals.
Del.icio.us tags: Renault Carlos Ghosn design brand Patrick le Quément Posted by Jack Yan, 05:15
You really do LOVE cars and I love what you just wrote about this brand. Besides, Carlos Ghosn, in the same speech, urged Renault to focus on growth when everyone was expecting him to announce more cost-cutting. When you have a strong brand, you can invest in it with confidence.
Robert de Quelen
# posted by Robert de Quelen: 5/11/2006 12:14:00 PM
Excellent point, Robert—I didn’t initially think of this. If the brand were weak, Carlos Ghosn would never have been able to say that.
My love for cars is life-long, literally since my grandfather found a Hot Wheels toy car on the day I was born and brought it to the hospital!
I have to admit that I wondered why my name was in the title of this post. I tried to tell myself that you were writing about me. ;)
I also admit that I didn't realize that Renault still existed considering they vacated the US sometime in the 80s. We Americans are so self-absorbed!
It’s from a British campaign for Renault in the 1990s (‘Nicole? Papa!’), so sorry, Nicole! Most of the French automakers pulled out of the US because they never sold enough—like the Italians (Fiat, Alfa Romeo [who is returning], Lancia). In 1986, I believe, Renault sold its controlling interest in American Motors Corp. to Chrysler. But Renault controls Nissan these days, so they are kind of in the US …Post a Comment
Links to this post:
NoteEntries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.
Individual JY&A and Medinge Group blogs
DonateIf you wish to help with my hosting costs, please feel free to donate.
Copyright ©200210 by Jack Yan & Associates. All rights reserved. Photograph of Jack Yan by Chelfyn Baxter.