After the Beijing Auto Show last April, we meet again with Laurens Van Den Acker, Head of Design at Renault since 2009, this time in Paris. Despite his prestigious title, Laurens once again strikes with his self-depreciating humour and is a long way from taking himself seriously. A short but sweet interview.
BSCB: Nice shoes!
Laurens Van Den Acker: Thanks! I try to match the shoes with the model we present. The nicer the shoes, the happier I am with the model, so you can guess I am very happy with the Trezor!
BSCB: Now that you have redesigned the entire Renault lineup, what models are you the most proud of?
Laurens Van Den Acker: The Scenic is our latest launch and as the completion of a six-year design cycle I am very proud of it. The Clio was also a great step because it was the first model to be redesigned with the new philosophy we introduced with the Dezir Concept six years ago. But the Talisman may be the one I’m the most proud of: you can park it next to any premium car and have nothing to be ashamed of, this to me is a great achievement for Renault.
BSCB: How do you describe the new direction you are taking the Renault brand in with the Trezor?
Laurens Van Den Acker: This was a little delicate because we didn’t need nor want to start from scratch again, but at the same time there was not the surprise effect of the Dezir that kind of came out of nowhere and stunned everyone. This is a second cycle, it may sound a bit boring but our style is maturing and renewing itself with a lot more depth and sophistication. We may now be able to do what the Germans are doing: build our style on existing foundations. They build the first storey, then the second and make their style evolve. We are now in this position with an established style that we can now build on. When you radically change design directions at each generation, you never get the chance to build anything. For a French marque, the fact that we aren’t doing a design revolution is almost a revolution in itself.
BSCB: I’m seeing the Renault Alaskan pickup for the first time in the metal here, has there been a lot of design work on it to adapt from the Nissan Navara on which it’s based?
Laurens Van Den Acker: Basically only the front of the pickup is redesigned, the rest is the Nissan Navara, which is actually not a bad starting point in itself at all. I think that at the end of the day the vehicle is quite homogenous which is an achievement because to be completely honest French marques are not pickup truck specialists. This is a segment where it is extremely difficult to gain credibility. See in the U.S. for example even for Toyota and Nissan are struggling because customers are really faithful to their trusted local brand, more so than in any other segment. So for the Alaskan’s design to be homogenous and liked is already a very good step.
BSCB: In Latin America where you are launching it first, Renault already has a solid reputation, so this may make things a little easier?
Laurens Van Den Acker: That’s exactly right. Latin America is our best bet, because we have been present for over fifty years. In fact, in Argentina, Brazil and Colombia where the Alaskan is being launched, it’s Renault’s second pickup truck along with the Duster Oroch but also the brand’s flagship as the Talisman, Espace or the Koleos aren’t sold there.