Having penned my own paean to the late, not-so-widely-lamented Renault Vel Satis after seeing its anodyne Korean replacement, I was somewhat heartened to find that I’m not the only auto writer with something of a weird crush on the strangest luxury car of our day. In the August issue of Evo Magazine, Richard Porter of Sniff Petrol dedicated an entire column [excerpted at vel-satis.org] to his inexplicable love for a car that he admits was
a hopeless old crock [from a time] when Renault’s quality control department couldn’t organise a tasting in a winery.
But, argues Porter, the Vel Satis has a unique appeal in the sense that it was
so self-consciously distanced from its dour German rivals that it was practically falling into La Rochelle Harbour
Whether Porter is genuine in is love for the Vel Satis or simply trolling famously elitist, performance-oriented readership is a question I’ll leave to the Best and Brightest. What is clear is that Porter’s weird love will not be recreated, as Auto Motor und Sport reports that Renault has learned its lesson and will be making “conservative” luxury cars in the future.
Renault’s design boss Laurens van den Acker tells the German buff book that Renault has learned the lesson of adventurous design, and that it will apply lessons learned from experience with the Vel Satis and its equally cool-yet-unsuccessful sibling, the Avantime van-coupe as it goes about building the luxury cars the French government asked for. Leaving aside the issue of French government pressure, van den Acker tells AM und S
Our chief executive Carlos Ghosn has finally empowered us to once again develop a role in our global strategy for a large luxury car. We’re definitely not giving up on this segment. Our [previous] strategy of taking on the strong German competition with three unusual concepts was bold and a sign of out trust in our brand. But the luxury market is very conservative and prefers 100% quality over major innovation. Our vehicles were very innovative but our quality wasn’t the best at the time.
My earlier ode to the Vel Satis was inspired by the bland lines of Renault’s current “flagship,” the Lattitude (a rebadged Samsung or a stretched Laguna, depending on how you look at it), and again it seems Renault is at risk of whip–sawing back to the extreme of conservative design after the Vel Satis and Avantime. After all, van den Acker’s two biggest claims to fame are the overly-adventurous Mazda Nagare concept, and the hyper-conservative first-gen Ford Escape. If he’s going to get the new Renault flagship right, he’s going to have to prove he can combine mass-appeal and trademark French funkiness into a single, coherent design. Otherwise, Renault’s government-encouraged return to the luxury space will yield little more than a few government contracts.