Jean-Pierre Ploué tells us all about the new design organisation he has set up in Turin. The interview continues. Opening photo of the post: Mikaël Pennec-Stellantis
After Lancia, let’s talk about Alfa Romeo. Are you going to be allowed to design mythical silhouettes like the GTV or even the 8C coupe, alongside the crossovers?
It’s too early to say. What we want is a real Alfa Romeo, like we want a real Lancia, a real Fiat! We are going to put all our energy into this and rediscover the strength of Alfa Romeo through the products and concepts that have made the brand’s reputation. Jean-Philippe Imparato, the boss of Alfa Romeo, has the brand engraved in his heart, and his Italian origins and his enthusiasm mean that I am not worried!
Alejandro Mesonero, ex-Seat/Cupra and ex-Dacia, joins you. Was it important to have a Latin design director for Alfa?
Absolutely, it was even my priority. Alejandro drives an Alfa, it’s his life’s passion. When I offered him the job, he was immediately enthusiastic, but I asked him to wait for a weekend of reflection so that his answer would not just be taken on emotion!
Let’s talk about Fiat, which is based on the monoculture of the 500 and the Panda. Will the Fiat range of tomorrow still be anchored around the 500?
No, we have ambitions here too! There is no question of having a 500 line and a Fiat line. There will be the Fiat range with all the products necessary to make it live. We even have a fairly generous product plan for it to ensure that it is present throughout the world, in Europe but also in Mercosur and other international markets.
For each of our brands, we have to find the right balance and we already know how many Fiat silhouettes we have to develop. These will be products with more synergy than before, perhaps more coherence too, but clearly there will be a complete product line, no more 500 monoculture at all.
Did you have time to prepare all these Italian projects before the merger was officially signed?
Not on the creative side. But from the very first discussions, we thought about how we could contribute to the rebirth or continuity of these Italian brands, in terms of positioning and team structuring. This is work that we were able to anticipate.
In short, the design of the Italian brands is created in Turin, that of Citroën, Peugeot and DS is born in Vélizy and finally, that of Opel remains in Rüsselsheim!
This is THE important rule! This means that all the people in the Stellantis group, including the designers, who work for a brand, must do so in the brand’s country of origin.
So, as Lancia design manager and head of the Alfa Romeo and Fiat style directors (among others…), you will have to live in Italy?
Exactly! I’m moving at the end of August, and not only professionally, but also with the family! I’m committing myself 200% to this job, because what has to be built or rebuilt is in Italy. There is no question of doing design from a distance.
Being in charge of Lancia’s design gave me the desire and the commitment to be there, for the teams and myself. So I’ll be there for two weeks and in France, in Vélizy, for a fortnight. In addition, I’m learning Italian!
You spend fifteen days a month in Vélizy, after all!
I know my French brand managers (above) very well, and everything works well with them. They know where they are going, and the need to know I’m on their backs is less essential!
During this interview, you mentioned product plans for all brands. But beyond the words, do any of these cars already exist in the studios?
Of course they do! There are models everywhere, in all the studios. Each of the brands is very busy, because as soon as the merger was signed, we started working on the products. Each studio is overflowing! In fact, after our interview, I have a meeting with François Leboine! (above)
Style directors of the European branch of Stellantis, under the direction of Jean-Pierre Ploué:
Alfa Romeo : Alejandro Mesonero
Citroën : Pierre Leclercq
DS : Thierry Metroz
Fiat Europe et Abarth : François Leboine
Lancia : Jean-Pierre Ploué
Opel et Vauxhall : Mark Adams
Peugeot : Matthias Hossann
Interview conducted by Christophe Bonnaud on Tuesday 27 July 2021. Thank you to Jean-Pierre Ploué for taking the time to answer our questions and to his communication team for organising this “Turin” meeting.