Title: Project leader, Renault Vel Satis
Previous title: research manager
While much of the Renault Vel Satis program focused on distinctive styling, project leader Francois Hordonneau was also involved in manufacturing process work.
In 1995, Hordonneau knew the Vel Satis would share the P5 platform with the Laguna II and the replacement for the Espace full-size minivan. When the project, code-named X73, was approved in mid-1998, he knew all three vehicles would be produced at Renault's plant in Sandouville, France.
But it's not a simple shared platform. 'The Vel Satis platform is not identical to the new Laguna's,' said Hordonneau. 'The Vel Satis has a 100mm higher seating position and a 135mm higher overall architecture.
Still, the Vel Satis' body-in-white is produced on the same line as the new Laguna. 'It was a challenge to fit Vel Satis into the overall production organization,' said Hordonneau. Saving weight was critical to meet performance targets. Hordonneau turned to light alloys and composite body parts for doors, hoods, fenders and rear hatches. 'We saved between 60kg and 80kg,' he said. Vel Satis weighs 1,750kg in spite of its large wheels, double-glazed windows, lots of sound insulation, and V-6.
Hordonneau coordinated development, production, logistics, design and marketing. He also relied on suppliers.
The Vel Satis' aluminum doors and hoods were developed with Pechiney, while its aluminum doorframes come from Wagon. Inoplast supplies composite fenders and the rear hatch. Sommer-Allibert, now part of Faurecia, makes the dashboard. Aisin-Warner of Japan supplies the automatic transmission, while Nissan makes the 3.5-liter gasoline V-6. Isuzu makes the 3.0-liter V-6 diesel.
Horonneau, a keen leisure sailor, says he is a true 'car guy. But when I'm sailing, I can relax and forget about cars.'