Two years ago Renault's design team had its backside-kicked and as a result it will not be shakin' that ass again anytime soon.
During a lunch with journalists at the company's annual financial results briefing in 2006, the new boss of the Renault brand Patrick Pelata laid into the look of radically styled models such as the Megane, Vel Satis and Avantime with their unconventional rear ends.
While the company had been applauded for daring to be different, Pelata was unimpressed with the sales results and told reporters that Renault had to "stop designing cars for designers" and make them more appealing to customers.
The new Renault Megane launched at the Paris Motor Show is a lot more conventional in looks and chief designer, Brit Anthony Grade, is pleased with it - even though he was one of those who took the flak over its predecessor.
"While Pelata may have been right, you also have to look at the Megane, Vel Satis and Avantime in context. Our brief was to get the vehicles and the brand noticed - make them stand out and we achieved that. Renault has a great history of developing new looks and products
"We took a few risks and ok, maybe a bit like a football team we need our backsides kicked by the manager every so often."
The C-segment is the biggest volume sector in Europe with vehicles such as the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra all competing for a slice of the cake. Pelata called for a Megane that looked more mainstream and less likely to polarise opinion.
Grade said: "We are very pleased with the result and I think people will become even more impressed as we roll out the full model range. The RenaultSport versions are absolutely stunning."
The complete range will include saloon, hatchback, coupe, estate plus long and short Scenic MPV versions - although the UK will not get the saloon.
Grade shortly moves to Russia to head up design at Lada, now 25 per cent owned by Renault. The brand has been in need of a make over for some years but that is only one challenge.
There are many others facing designers led by safety and environmental developments. He added: "Everyone is working on electric vehicles and that presents all sorts of packing problems in terms of where to put the battery - or batteries. The bigger the car, the more power sources you need.
"You have to find the space for these as well as, perhaps a conventional engine as well, other equipment and not to mention the passengers and their luggage. "Actually we thought that with an electric vehicle there would be a big opportunity to do something with the look of the front of a car because you could do away with the radiator grille. Not so, batteries still need cooling.
"But the biggest headache of all currently is pedestrian safety. We now have to follow so many rules in terms of front-end design in order that pedestrians are thrown up and over the bonnet. This does restrict what we do and is only really effective at relatively low impact. Ultimately it's speed that does the most damage."Published 10 October 2008