Renault is French, and so, it is different. The carmaker thinks differently, plans differently and does things differently too. So, while other manufacturers paid lip service to setting up design and styling studios in India, Renault actually set up two. The Mumbai design studio was started in 2008 and the one in Chennai, along with a full-fledged workshop, went online earlier this year.
The Mumbai outfit’s first job was the Logan prototype, which the company produced with help from Indian designer DC. Dilip Chhabria was also quite heavily involved in the making of several other show cars for Renault and he helped with the Twizzy concepts for the Auto Expo as well. Slowly, the design team started working on larger and larger projects, like full-fledged facelifts, updates and special bits for new cars to be launched in India, like the Lodgy’s new grille.
Nirmit Soni and Mishu Batra work on a CAD station at the Mumbai studio.
The Kwid, however, presented a huge challenge. This is because the project was both Indian as well as French. Most of the data collection, however, was done from here, on the ground. It had to be. Renault was keen on an immersive experience for its design team. It wanted the design staff to be drowning in the local culture and local tastes, and there was a special emphasis on what Indian customers disliked too. This is how they discovered what Indian customers really meant when they said they wanted more car for their money. And it’s also why Renault understood what Indian car buyers wanted most of all; to skip a whole class and reach up for that car that would only logically come to them three or four years down the road. And how did the team finally decide on the crossover shape for the Kwid? “When you are in India, and your ears are open, it is just obvious,” emphasises Mumbai studio boss Patrick Lecharpy.
Also read: We take a 360-degree look at the Renault Kwid's interior and exterior
Designer Serge Cosenza looks on as a wire frame of the Kwid is rendered.
The actual design process happened really quick after the crossover shape was chosen. “The way we work today, the ‘masala’ is moved back and forth between India and France, so we have the best of both, with lots of India, but plenty of Renault too,” says Lecharpy.
Then, a competition was instituted internally, a few designs were chosen with the help of chief Laurens Van Acker, and then a couple of the best were selected for model-making. Serge Cosenza’s design was then selected and the interior work done by young Indian designer Moneet Chitodra, who managed to create an appealing interior within an exceedingly small budget.
Serge with his stunning handiwork; note the big wheels on the illustration.
The engineering and cost control people then thrashed out the details and after just three months, Renault got its ‘convergence’ model. There were a few difficult bits, like the bulging hips that needed a bit of back and forth with production and engineering and the tiny tyre profile demanded by engineers to achieve the fuel economy target drove the designers nuts. But Renault eventually managed to hit all its design objectives. The Kwid, despite being a compact, low-cost car, looks like an SUV. It manages to convey a feeling of size and it really does feel robust. As long as Renault sticks to its promised price range of Rs 3-4 lakh, this could be the most significant low-cost car to be launched here in a decade; all primarily achieved through good design, low-cost engineering and great cooperation.
Laurens Van Acker discusses the interiors with Indian designer Moneet Chitodra.