Renault’s freestyling concept boin
Stéphane Janin, Renault’s director of concept car design, sees technology calling time on dull cars
> RENAULT FULLY understands concept cars, and the benefits of doing them. A true concept car (as opposed to a show car, which you do when you know how your production car is going to look and you want some feedback) lets you test new ideas very quickly – it takes about a year to go from scratch to the finished car, and you get very interesting feedback.
> THERE IS no risk. It costs something but it’s nothing compared with a production car, and you have many articles and TV programmes in which your brand gets exposure. With Trezor [the 2016 showstopper that Janin also worked on] we had four minutes on the main channel in France and three minutes on the BBC… That’s great value; you almost get back your investment. Of course if the media says it’s bad that’s not so great for us.
> YOU HAVE to take risks and not worry about what people say. In the ’70s, the golden age of concept cars, the Italians like Giugiaro made some amazing concepts – they were like pieces of art. You see these cars in museums and, while it’s not very nice to say it, in 50 years’ time you won’t see many Meganes in museums. But maybe you’ll see Trezor or EZ-Ultimo [Renault’s recent Paris show concept, a luxury self-driving limo] on display in 2050, owned by a collector.
> DESIGNERS ARE passionate about cars. Now we have to think differently. One interesting idea is that we’ll have cars dedicated to specific uses. So cities will be very clean and quiet, because the cars will all be EVs. When you want to escape to the countryside you’ll take a sports car, not a compromise. You’ll own something like Trezor, or perhaps share it with a friend, but when you’re in the city you’ll call a ride-sharing robo-taxi. A friend in LA dreams of this kind of service. He could be stuck on the 405 in rush hour but in EZ-Ultimo he could be working or making calls, not wasting time, and then when he goes to Big Sur he’ll have a Trezor or a motorcycle – which sounds better than what we have today. > WE’LL NO longer have to design the average car, the Golf. That won’t exist any more, which is not so bad.
> TOOLS LIKE virtual reality are great. But these tools are made to save money. The sooner you can get working on that real thing, the better. With a sculpture you can work as a team, it’s collaborative, and when it’s done, you know that it’s good. With virtual reality you can put on the stupid glasses, bumping into things as you move around, and you’re thinking ‘Yeah, it should be okay, it should be good…’ But until it exists you never really know.
Janin with two of his babies; (top) and EZ Ultimo, Renault’s vision of a premium mobility experience