Two weeks ago I had the honour of interviewing Stéphane Janin, designer of the much-acclaimed Renault Trezor concept unveiled at the Paris Auto Show 2016.
BSCB: What does the Trezor show that will inform Renault’s future models?
Stéphane Janin: The Trezor is a true concept car, meaning we won’t be launching a similar car in two years for example. It’s a little bit like a sculpture, a work of art so to speak. On the other hand, it does represent what Renault wants to do in the future in terms of design. If you remember the Renault Dezir six years ago when Laurens Van Den Acken started at Renault, it was a revolution as we then announced a new style for all our vehicles that got applied to our entire lineup all the way up to today. The Trezeor is at the crossroads between our completely redesigned lineup – the youngest in Europe – and the new cycle of models we are about to launch. So Trezor has two roles: first to celebrate the past six years and second to start to project us into the next renewal of our lineup.
Design-wise, it’s not a revolution, it’s an evolution which means refinement and restraint. The Trezor remains within the Renault spirit, there is no breakage. From afar we keep our sensual shapes, but as we get closer there is a lot of innovation, with some more conceptual than others and some that we may develop into production. This is how we should read Trezor.
BSCB: Understood. What are the main innovations showcased in the Trezor?
Stéphane Janin: Firstly the Trezor has an electric engine, illustrating Renault’s will to succeed in this world. Secondly in terms of design, all our light signatures show directions we would like to keep: at the front we still have our diamond-shaped logo with two “C” on each side which are ultra-purified. In the future we believe designs must be associated with a brand at first sight so we are working towards very distinctive design elements on our cars. At the back, we have a very experimental system made of lasers – why not try and adapt this to production?
BSCB: So the taillights are made of laser?
Stéphane Janin: Yes, in fact these are new generation optical fibres which have the particularity of reflecting a lot of light laterally – usually optical fibres have a linear pointed trajectory, not multidirectional. At the end of the fibre inside the car’s body we have lasers that fuel the light. The interesting bit is that these taillights are mobile, dynamic. Today in a normal car when you brake only the intensity of the light changes. With Trezor the shape of the taillight changes. This is very experimental but style-wise this is something we can adapt in production.
As far as the interior of the car goes, the whole interface behind the wheel is a tactile tablet ergonomically designed for the car world, and that’s also something we would like to push into production. At the moment with Talisman and Espace we have a vertical tablet, this one has a L-shape that we’d like to explore. The verticality suits navigation well, but we would like to add an horizontal element above it.
BSCB: Everyone is talking about the whole upper body opening of the Trezor – is it elytra-style opening?
Stéphane Janin: I’m not sure how to call it but it is modelled on the aviation industry: the Trezor opens like the cockpit of a fighter jet such as the Dassault Rafale or Lockheed Martin F-22. The entire upper half of the car opens up. There is a lot of symbolism in it, as a concept car it tells a story. The Trezor is a little like a jewel box that you open, discovering the “Trezor” inside a red velvet-inspired interior (trésor is French for treasure).
The other very symbolic elements are the way you have to step over the side to get into the car, the same way a Formula 1 pilot does into his vehicle, and the “barchetta” shape of the car inspired by the stylistically inspiring era of the 1960s, along with the imagery of “jumping” inside the car to step in. We really liked this approach because in our sensual design philosophy there is the notion of touching the car, a little bit like mounting a motorbike. We invite people to touch Trezor: the interior leather runs towards the exterior of the car, like a horse saddle. The link to horse riding can also be done: it’s almost like an animal we are riding and are in direct contact with.
We have tried to go beyond just a beautiful object that we look at just like in a museum. We have looked for something more intimate, more sensual.
BSCB: One of the biggest surprises of this Paris Auto Show is the absence of the new Alpine. How is the Trezor positioned vs. the Alpine?
Stéphane Janin: Good question. There is no competition with Alpine simply because it is a different brand, it’s not a Renault Alpine. So it doesn’t trigger any issues, neither for Renault nor for Alpine. Of course everything is supervised by the same people, it’s more or less the same design teams that are responsible for both cars, but from the moment there are two distinct brands there is no issue.
BSCB: Strategically speaking for the Show, if Alpine was present, would you still have presented the Trezor?
Stéphane Janin: Yes of course, because Trezor shows the future direction of Renault , which is different from what Alpine wants to do.