The new Laguna is the first of three very different vehicles to be built on Renault's new large-car platform.
The other two are the next-generation Espace minivan and the Vel Satis, the replacement for the full-size Safrane. The Laguna fits into the upper-medium segment.
'We will differentiate the [new large-car platform] models much more than with cars that use the current Megane platform, for example,' says Yves Dubreil, program manager for the new Laguna. Dubreil is also supervising the program managers for the next Espace and Vel Satis. He reports to Remi Deconinck, senior vice president of product planning at Renault.
The new Laguna goes on sale in January in main European markets. The Espace and Vel Satis follow in 2002.
The three cars have 'very different flavors and different designs, both inside and outside,' says Dubreil. 'The only parts that are obviously common are the Renault logo and the door handles - everything else is different.'
Under the skin, the cars share common parts such as the drivetrain, cross beam and some air-conditioning elements.
Renault focused on making the assembly times for the Laguna, Espace and Vel Satis very similar.
For 80 percent of the parts, assembly time on the line differs by less than 10 percent, says Dubreil.
That makes the factory at Sandouville, France, where the three cars will be assembled, much more efficient, says Dubreil.
'If you have a line building very different cars with different times for the line positions, you have a lot of difficulties in improving productivity,' he says.
The new Laguna will take 15-16 hours to assemble on a standardized IMPV (International Motor Vehicle Program) measure, says Dubreil.
That compares with more than 20 hours for the outgoing model.
The new Laguna features a large number of innovations. These include a new keyless entry system, developed by Valeo, that uses a special smart card. The car also has a tire pressure monitoring system, developed with Michelin.
'Innovation is mandatory if you want to stay in the market,' says Dubreil. 'I am satisfied with the results. It is hard to keep innovation alive in a big project like this.'
Total development time of the new Laguna was 42 months, says Dubreil. That compares with 52 months for the Clio, and 58 months for the old Laguna.
There were no major changes to the new Laguna's design during development in response to market changes, says Dubreil.
'There was no 1/8Frankfurt effect' coming back from the Frankfurt auto show in September 1999,' he says. 'Normally development teams see features on rival cars that make them rethink their strategy. But we put sufficient content in the car, and there was no problem in terms of product definition.'