Renault design boss Laurens van den Acker wants the brand's cars to spark a deep emotion within its customers. "If they don’t seduce we're dead," the Dutch-born styling chief said. Van den Acker also told Automotive News Europe Editor Luca Ciferri why designers have a stronger voice than ever inside automakers' boardrooms.
How can you make the French-ness of Renaults globally recognizable?
When I think about France, I think about seduction. When people go to France they fall in love with the French lifestyle, the French way of living, so first and foremost our cars need to seduce. If they don't seduce we’re dead. My vision is that when people buy a French car, they’re buying a piece of France, hoping to go there on holiday. I don't think that somebody who buys a German car wants to necessarily go to Germany on holiday. This French seduction is unique and this is why I pushed so hard [for the Renault brand] to become Latin sensual, combining the best of the Latin values with some solid values. To me, German cars are cold, Italians are hot, and French are warm. If we have German quality with Latin flavor then we have a perfect combination. I hope that’s what we can express with cars like the Clio, Captur and everything that comes after.
Design is more important than ever. What is driving this?
This is happening for a combination of reasons. First, design has established itself as a force inside the industry. Automakers realize that they need design to succeed because design remains the No. 1 reason for purchase. Of course, you need to have the substance too, but design is the most important factor. Secondly, technologies and engineering capabilities have increased enormously, so lot of things that we design now can be actually built. Third, I think we are living in a really exciting period for automotive design because we have all these new markets that are opening up such as India, Brazil, Russia and China. People are buying cars for the first time. They have a naive love affair that is just starting with the automobile. This is the same feeling we experienced in Europe in the ’50s and ’60s, when people discovered cars, fell in love with them, aspired to own them. This feeling might be harder to find in Europe right now, but once you go outside of Europe, it’s everywhere.