GEORGES DOUIN, 52, last year added responsibility for Renault's international operations to his duties as head of product development. Douin's roots are in product engineering. He joined Renault in 1967 as a research engineer. He was named head of the engine department in 1982 and vice president for product engineering in 1988. Douin was promoted to senior vice president for product planning 1992. He was interviewed in Geneva by staff reporter Stephane Farhi.
Many carmakers in Geneva showed new small cars. What are the consequences for your product range, especially for the Scenic?
We expect many competitors for the Scenic. But in 1998 we will still be the only European carmaker with such a vehicle. So far, the only real competitor is the Opel Zafira, with its seven-seat architecture. We are currently reaching our production peak of 1,450 Scenics per day at the Douai plant.
During the second half of its life cycle, the Scenic will be more autonomous inside Renault's range. We want the body to be more differentiated from the hatchback. We are also preparing a 4x4 version with Steyr-Daimler-Puch. It will be manufactured at Douai. We've not yet decided to make a genuine 4x4 model, because we think that the market is too small in Europe.
What are the most significant introductions in Geneva this year?
This is a big year for German renewal in the lower-medium segment, with the Volkswagen Golf, Opel Astra and Ford Focus.
The Japanese are now coming into the European supermini segment. The Toyota Yaris and Honda JBX concept car show a stronger style.
Below the Twingo size, different kinds of cars are appearing, like the Fiat Seicento, the small Tata, the Daewoo Matiz and the Volkswagen Lupo. It keeps us thinking.
How will the Renault range evolve in the future ?
A facelifted version of the Twingo will be introduced this autumn, although the Twingo remains very attractive five years after its introduction.
We are thinking about a common platform for the small cars that will succeed the Twingo and Clio.
As for the new Clio, I've been insistent that we make this car Renault's Golf. That means to target the top rank in its category with only a few different bodies but with a quite improved product.
Different models have different strategies. The Megane shows very well how a platform concept can be used. If we had made only a single version, the success would have been lesser.
It is critical for us to establish process commonality, including simultaneous engineering and common manufacturing. But we do not have a single-product strategy.