Electric cars are reviving iconic models

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Renault Group design executive vice president Laurens van den Acker talks about how EVs are allowing designers to think outside the box.

The Renault 4ever concept revealed at the Paris motor show previews the brand’s second retro-inspired electric car, following the earlier Renault 5.

After the unveiling, we caught up with Renault Group design executive vice president Laurens van den Acker, who detailed the process of reinventing a classic, the design opportunities afforded by electrification and the future of Alpine and Dacia styling.

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After reviving the 5, how was it doing the same for the 4?

“After the 5, we couldn’t not talk about the 4… We have a chance to reinvent our icons like this with the energy transition. They’ve become relevant again. So many memories contribute to them. For many it was their first car to drive, their holiday car, where they had their first kiss. When cars all go EV, they risk becoming banal, but these cars help answer that.”

How closely does this concept preview the 4?

“I love concept cars and have done my share of dream cars, but this is not the style of Luca [de Meo, Renault Group boss]. We make a promise and keep to it. With the 5, what you see is what you get. With the 4, it’s still two years away, but the upper half is still essentially very close – the lights, the cabin.”

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Was the 4 an easy car to reinvent?

“With the 5, it was relatively painless. It just came out the pens of our designers. The 4 was more laborious. It [the original] was not a pretty car! People didn’t buy it for beauty. It took more effort.”

Could you have reinvented the 4 and 5 previously as petrol cars?

“I don’t think we could have done them as ICE cars. You’d have needed a big front overhang, the wheels couldn’t be as big, the turning circle would be impacted. Due to EVs, we can now reinvent icons.”

Are you realising the opportunities of electric cars now in design?

“At the start, people needed to be reassured by electric cars [with familiar looks]. People are beyond that, and now the appetite is to see the differences. We notice people want to stand out. For us as designers, that is fantastic. There is a hunger for innovation and many new brands.

“Fifteen years ago, I’d have thought by now there would be three huge multinational companies, but the opposite is true with lots of new brands. This opens up the eyes of consumers to choice.”

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What clues does the Alpenglow concept car give to Alpine’s future?

“Luca de Meo says that Alpine should be a cross between Ferrari and Tesla, which is some ambition. The concept will be an inspiration for all the Alpines to follow, lightweight, very sexy, high technology, something close to racing that moves the heart, eyes and emotions.”

How can Dacia evolve design-wise?

“Dacia is a wonderful brand. It’s very in sync with the time. It’s what you need and no more. The essentials are there, and now we give it a flavour with more outdoor spirit. Before the focus was on price, and there was no aspiration. The outdoor spirit gives a chance to make an affordable kind of Jeep or Land Rover.”

Mark Tisshaw

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