The Paris Auto Show was the first motor show in the world, established in 1898 by industry pioneer Albert de Dion. This is where French manufacturers are expected to shine, surprise and revolutionise the automotive world. In 1922, an astounding 81 French automobile makers were exhibited at the Show.
As the #1 French manufacturer for the past 70 years, Renault has used the Show in the past to make big noise about new and upcoming models. From the 1947 Paris Motor Show where Renault unveiled the first mass-produced French car, the Renault 4CV, to the 1992 Show where it stunned the automotive world by revealing the Twingo which would go on to achieve legendary success for the brand, and 2002 when the doomed yet prestigious Vel Satis was unveiled.
In this context, Renault’s efforts at this year’s Paris Auto Show have left me frankly unsatisfied and a little worried. All Renault’s energy at the inaugural press conference on the first press day was spent talking up the new generation Espace, granted a paramount nameplate for the brand, but with very little sales power. Worse, the world class smarts the first generations Espace showcased have all but disappeared to give way to an SUV-esque silhouette with pretentious interior and ridiculously cramped third row seats. Is Renault starting to take itself too seriously?
The Espace wasn’t exactly new news as its design and most features were known well before the Paris Auto Show, yet it took complete centre stage at Renault’s stand with no less than 10 examples displayed. The other star model on the Renault stand wasn’t new either: the third generation Twingo had been unveiled in Geneva last March and had already hit French roads (#8 in September). Yet there were 7 of them on the stand. Although I have to say I do like the colour-changing light balls hanging from the ceiling that have become Renault’s trademark over the past few international Auto Shows…