Patrick le Quément left Renault’s Industrial Design department on 4 November 2009, after 22 years with the French manufacturer. Today, always up to date with the latest automotive news, he works, among other things, on the design of boats for several manufacturers. Untiring, at over 75 years of age, he remains active and was kind enough to comment on the rebirth of the R5 for us.
Concerning retro-design, Patrick le Quément recalls “that he started with the famous Beetle Concept-1 (below) by J.Mays, 27 years ago, at the Detroit show in 1994”. He has never been recognised as a big fan of retro-design. “It’s true that my tendency has always been to look forward.”
“After I left, when Renault design worked on the Twingo III with Daimler, there was this temptation to make a rapprochement with the R5, and more specifically the sporty Turbo version (below). There were some interesting projects but the management at the time chose to take a step back from the overly identifying signs of the R5, such as the headlights in particular”.
This retro-design, Le Quément never wanted to hear about it when he was at the helm of Renault Design Industriel, except for the Fifitie concept car (read here : http://lignesauto.fr/?p=21003 ). But “even if I’m not going to say that only fools don’t change their minds, in the current context, the R5 Prototype unveiled at Renaulution is a good operation”.
“It is clear that the brand had lost its way a little and it was difficult to grasp what Renault was all about. Luca de Meo was clear in expressing his desire to return to strong products that stand out. Here, with the R5 concept, we are facing the first of the cars from the de Meo era. We don’t yet know which platform will be chosen, but this information is crucial because it can have a great influence on the proportions. The current Twingo, for example, has proportions dictated by the Smart, a package that corresponds well to what Mercedes wanted”.
“On this R5 Prototype, there are plenty of signs reminiscent of the original car, such as the body belt with the rear pillar. It’s very well designed with the separate roof, just like on a Mini. There are the characteristic headlights and taillights and also a lot of foot calls on the graphic side to Vasarely. We find this “Op’Art” side with the new logo present on the R5″ (below).
“The car is friendly and expresses a strong evolution in the Renault style language. The design is quite marked with clean edges. They have reinterpreted the R5 well, but rather that of Gandini, the 1984 Supercinq with its very simple body side, with beautiful sections, without animation. Everything then happens at the front and at the rear where you really find the R5.”
“I would still say that this concept car is a bit too talkative. It generates too many messages. I’m still a follower of Battista Pinin Farina’s maxim “simplify, simplify, and when you think you’re done, take out one more line!”
“I am less fan of certain details, but overall the exercise is successful. Obviously, it’s complicated for a designer to talk about another designer’s work, because he wouldn’t have done it exactly like that. Nevertheless, I say ‘Bravo’, because this is a car that will make people talk about Renault, and the designers knew how to add a soul, a feeling to it. The car exudes emotion, which is not always the case with the other cars in the range”.
“The R5 Prototype doesn’t have the size of the original, it’s rather big but no more than a BMW MINI compared to the original Mini! To get closer to the R5, we would have liked the car to be less imposing because the main thing about the 1972 R5 is that it was a perfect city car. Here, the objective was to use the expression of the R5, not its size”.
Concerning the announcements made for the Alpine brand which becomes 100% electric and which will give birth to a replacement of the Berlinette by a coupé designed in common with Lotus, Patrick le Quément remembers very well the Berlinette Z11 which was almost industrialised in 2001, 20 years ago (below) in partnership, already, with Lotus!
“At the time, Lotus also had its share of responsibility for the abandonment of the project. We hadn’t managed to finalise a satisfactory contract. Clearly, Lotus still has the skills to design ingenious products in the context of the battle for weight. This association therefore seems natural to me, in the spirit of Alpine and Lotus who remain very close. It doesn’t shock me.”
Alpine is moving towards a true 100% electric range with a compact sedan, a crossover and a replacement for the Berlinette. Le Quément tells us that “it’s a bit the revenge of this brand on Renault, after having been sacrificed for too long alongside a rise in power of Renault Sport and Renault F1. Alpine is a beautiful brand. The return of the A110 has been successful, I hope that the continuation will be at the same level of excellence because I am a little afraid of the temptation that can be there to continue with the Alpine badge, but by straying from the fundamentals associated with the brand”.
And what does Patrick le Quément think about the rush towards 100% electricity? “I trust the engineers and designers to finally free us from some of the constraints associated with heat engines. I’m always surprised when I see 100% electric cars with huge radiator grills (below, BMW iNext concept). With electricity, there is a real potential for finding new architectures and new expressions. That’s where it’s going to happen”.
“But for the moment, car design seems to me to be a bit like the hamster in its wheel, which is running, running, and finally doesn’t go very far! The all-electric is really going to change things. And it will liberate designers, even if some, like BMW, have to ask themselves a lot of questions!”