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CAR confidential: Renault hopes Lucia gets it right

Rewind five years and Renault was making waves in the world of design. Remember the brave and distinctive Avantime? It certainly was ahead of its time, and public taste in general, sales ending no sooner than they’d started. And what about the Vel Satis, the gloriously gauche French riposte to lovers of German execs? Then there was the Mégane, a car that shook its booty, and cut a dash in the mainstream hatch sector.

What went so wrong? This autumn’s new Laguna is as exciting as a 1990s beige PC, and the new Twingo has been criticised for its less daring design than its marvellously monobox forebear. Has Renault lost its bottle?

Not according to its design director, Patrick le Quément. He says cars are now “clinic-ed” and researched to avoid picking a clunker. We might love the old Twingo, but it wasn’t a commercial success.

“The first car was looked upon as a bit of an iconic design, but in all the years it was built, it never made any money,” he admits. “As the head of design, I am not sure I can count that as a success. We failed to attract the young buyers we were targeting.

“When Carlos Ghosn arrived in the company from Nissan, he basically said we can’t make the same mistake again. This is why the new Twingo is different.”

Isn’t there a danger that customer clinics and research can lead to dull design, though? Doesn’t a creative genius like le Quément feel like he’s banging his head against a brick wall?

“There is an element of frustration sometimes,” he admits.

“We pay a lot of attention to who the potential customer is. We get to the stage where we now their name; she might be called Lucia, a 49-year-old Italian. It’s that specific.”

Maybe Lucia finds the new Laguna exciting. I hope so.

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