As the old adage goes: you’ve got to be in
it to win it. Hence Groupe Renault’s decision to open a new design center in
Shanghai, the heart of China’s bustling new car economy and home to nearly 30
other carmaker design studios.
News of the new design center opening comes shortly after Alliance partner Nissan’s announcement that its Beijing-based China design center would relocate to Shanghai. Coincidence? Likely not. Many partner companies share resources and are close geographically. Tata’s UK design center is on the same floor as Jaguar’s advanced design studio in Coventry, for example. Perhaps Nissan-Renault negotiated a good lease agreement on multiple floors in the Tower they share…
Regardless of the agreement Groupe Renault reached with the building’s owners, it’s a surprise that the company hasn’t had a presence in the Chinese car market – the largest in the world and the company’s fourth-largest market in 2018 – until now. While the company has a presence in France, Romania, South Korea, Brazil and India, all of the brands under the Groupe Renault umbrella – namely Renault, Dacia, Alpine, Samsung, and AvtoVAZ – have the most potential for growth in the Chinese market.
Groupe Renault states it is ‘pursuing [a]
strategy of international expansion with the opening of the new design center
in Shanghai’ and that the new Renault Design Center ‘will imagine and design
future Groupe Renault models directly addressing the expectations of Chinese
customers.’ Clearly, that’s a good reason for being there: the goal is to feed
off of the local environment and learn more about the fast changing
developments – in technology, usage patterns and general desirability – within
the trendsetting market.
Another reason is to gain access to the vast
talent pool at their disposal in the region. Shanghai currently stands at the
forefront of design studio development – no other city has as many design
studios within a constrained cubic mile area.
“Our new design studio in Shanghai fully supports Groupe Renault’s strategy to win over new customers in China,” says Laurens van den Acker, Executive Vice President, Corporate Design. “We plan to hire some 20 local designers in the coming months. These talents will help us to anticipate the expectations of Chinese customers. Renault Design Center Shanghai will play a major role in the design of future local products. It will also contribute to global Groupe Renault projects.”
Renault’s design center in Shanghai will compete
for programs with the Groupe’s six other worldwide design centers and cover all
automotive design sectors, including exterior and interior design, colors and
materials, UI design and UX design, which is becoming increasingly important in
the quest to appeal to customers.
Similar to Nissan Design China’s new
Shanghai base, the studio does not have full-size modeling capability in-house and
will be relying on 3D tools for design presentations. Renault plans to
outsource the physical building of production and concept cars to the multitude
of local suppliers in the area.
As with other European carmaker design
studios in the city, Renault Design Center Shanghai’s main objective is for the
team to be inspired by the city’s creative momentum. The team will explore the
latest trends and work to develop connected, innovative and electric mobility
Watch Anthony Lo, Groupe Renault’s VP of Exterior Design, and Yafei Zhao, Head of the Renault Design Center Shanghai, go over the new studio’s mission in the video above.