The Designers, Pt6 – Laurens van den Acker, RenaultMon, 16 Jun 2014
Car Design News launched its first-ever Car Design Review yearbook at the Geneva Motor Show, featuring the award-winning Production Car and Concept Car Designs of 2013.
If you're interested in buying a copy of the 160-page yearbook this interview appears in, alongside trend reports, bespoke car design infographics and a special feature on Marcello Gandini, our inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Car Design Review can be purchased here.
Name Laurens van den Acker
Role VP design, Renault Group
Age, nationality 48, Dutch
Location Paris, France
Education Delft University of Technology, Holland
"I hope 2013 was the end of the crisis in Europe. The new Clio and Captur came on stream in 2013 (the Clio was Europe's third best-seller overall after the Golf and Fiesta) and the Dacia brand gained 18 percent.
"The designer Raymond Loewy once said ‘the most beautiful line is the line of a rising sales chart'. If you take that quote to heart, then Renault had a very good year. It was also when all my six recent concept cars were shown together for the first time. At the Frankfurt motor show the Initiale Paris was the sixth and final concept relating to my ‘daisy lifecycle' idea, so in those terms, 2013 was a unique year.
"In a time of economic crisis you have to dare more than before. Some people say at a time of crisis the public wants rational cars, but actually we believe people more than ever want to escape. We need to make them dream again and give them a reason to buy a new vehicle and the best way to do that is to appeal to their emotions. I'm happy to say the crisis seems to have reinforced our commitment to make passionate and emotional cars rather than reduce it.
"2014 is going to be an extremely exciting and interesting year for us because we are launching new versions of the Twingo and the Espace, the bookends of our brand. Where you could argue a Clio or Captur is an exercise more in style with a bit of innovation, I think the Espace and Twingo need to be exercises in innovation first, style second. We tried to reinvent these cars from the ground up so it will be an extremely interesting year, but scary, because we are changing the concepts of these two vehicles quite radically.
"Times have never been better for car designers. First there is an acknowledgment in upper management that design and brand play an enormous role. There's no reason for us to defend why we are here anymore. On the contrary, they are starting to see the positive impact that design can have, if done right. It becomes especially important when you move into international markets where you might not have been very present until now.
"It's key to have a chance to reinvent yourself in markets like India, China or South America and the best way to do that is through design. I think this point, combined with new technologies that allow us to move closer to what we consider our dream vision of a car, make it really exciting to be a car designer today.
"We have a pretty interesting design network with studios in Sao Paulo, Bucharest [Dacia], Seoul, two in India and the Technocentre HQ, near Paris, and that could rise to seven or eight in five years' time. We're thinking of re-organizing our studios too and one of the reasons why is that our profession has become a lot more complex.
"In the past you might have been okay with interior, exterior and color material teams. Now you need a special team for head- and tail-lights, wheels, multimedia and even sound design and sensorial experiences. The competition is becoming so big you have to be good in all aspects. The key is to open up the studios but to keep them connected.
"In many ways it's not so different from what we are trying to do with our line-up: to do many types vehicles but make sure they have a strong family feeling among each other. But even though I am trying to create a line-up that's coherent, compared to some other manufacturers, we allow ourselves a little more leeway and freedom."Lauren's Top Cars of 2013
1. Nissan IDx
2. Volvo Coupé Concept
3. BMW Pininfarina Gran Lusso Coupé
"The Volvo Coupé Concept is very tasteful, Scandinavian design, impeccably executed from the exterior to the interior with great color and materials too"
1. Mercedes S-Class
2. Porsche 918 Spyder
3. BMW i3
"The Porsche 918 Spyder is a purist car from a purist company. Focused, thrilling, right"< The Designers Pt5
Richard Chung, Johnson Controls
By Guy Bird