Renault is about to begin a new model cycle, one that will require design chief Laurens van den Acker to seamlessly integrate a growing variety of new sensors, screens and other technology that will be commonplace as vehicles become more autonomous, connected and electric. Van den Acker, whose five-year revamp of Renault's design pushed the French brand to No. 2 in European sales last year from No. 4 in 2012, will leverage the latest computer tools, such as virtual reality, to bring future Renaults to life. He shared his plans with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Peter Sigal.
You described the Trezor concept car, unveiled last fall, as pointing toward a future styling direction. What aspects of that will we be able to see?
It points to a future that will be more electric, more autonomous, more connected, and it’s a first shot at answering these questions. It confirms that we are putting more emotion into our cars, something we have done in the first generation through great proportions and very sensual shapes.
How far out are you looking?
I'm not sure how useful it is to look ahead more than 10 years. A few years ago, no one was talking about autonomous cars, and they have been sprung upon us in a very short time, which shows that new technologies are coming at us faster than we can predict.
What new tools are you using?
What you are seeing in the design studios is more virtual reality systems used for anything from exteriors to interiors. We are experimenting with VR for marketing clinics, for product reviews, even communicating with our design studios. Digital tools are becoming even more important.