by Maxime Cannesson - Cars

Renault Alaskan: they give you their little secrets

Renault has just unveiled U60, its first one-tonne pickup, initially addressing the South American market. We asked Louis Morasse (LCV design chief) and Marina Picard, Global deputy Chief Marketing Manager, for inside information on Renault’s very latest.

Why is Renault now getting interested in the one-tonne pickup market, where it faces stiff competition?

Marina: The pick-up market is indeed fiercely competitive, nevertheless it’s so far been the preserve of a handful of big-name players. True, we’re a new arrival in an established segment, but then we’re stepping in with the weight of an 18-year leadership in light commercial vehicles in Europe and strong LCV positions in many other markets overseas. We definitely do have a place on this market and our ambition is quite clear: we’re stepping from a regional top player to a top global player.

We have two particular reasons for believing in our potential here:

  • Renault’s claim to legitimacy on this market began with Duster Oroch in Latin America, a model that is off to a very encouraging start.
  • The Pick-Up market is colossal: 40% of the total LCV market worldwide. So we have everything to gain in fielding a double product offer.

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Does the Pick-Up still have a place in today’s increasingly urban world, and what kind of customers are you aiming at?

Marina: The one-tonne pick-up is neither exactly an LCV, nor a passenger car. It’s an atypical vehicle whose main virtue is versatility, meaning it addresses many different types of customer, which can vary from region to region, or even from country to country within the same region. That being said, we can point out two main customer categories:

  • Business users (craftsmen and small businesses) requesting heavy payload or towing capabilities.
  • Private users looking for a status-enhancing vehicle, needed for various activities such as DIY leisure activities (boat or quad towing…), family adventure outings, and off-road use (in mountainous regions, for example).Whoever buys a Pick-Up, the prior purchase reason is linked to a “work/payload” need. In Latin America, the region we’re starting with, this kind of vehicle is extremely popular, accounting for over 50% of the LCV sales!.

How does pickup design differ from design of a more “conventional” vehicle?

Louis: I guess the answer to this question hinges on Renault’s very strong and very long-running design inspiration in commercial vehicles. We’ve led the European LCV market for a long, long time, and have unparalleled experience in the design of practical, functional vehicles. The pick-up is the utility vehicle par excellence whenever it comes to heavy or high loads. Curiously enough, its very utilitarian nature has also come to carry strong status connotations, and this entails a requirement on compliance with a certain stylistic tradition. So we’ve stayed true to this, while adding our own touch of soul and emotional appeal.

The stylistic starting point was our new brand identity. We’ve got a pretty vertical front end, a long horizontal bonnet (specific to our product range) and a wide front bumper. The headlamps are linked through a wide, imposing radiator grille. The C-shape light signature, tried and tested on other recent models, adds a degree of visual singularity. The car looks really great, radiating a powerful sense of robustness and quality.

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What are the sources of ALASKAN design inspiration?

Louis: In designing our pick-up we knew we’d have to fit in to a large extent with established design standards. By that I mean the image a pick-up conjures up in people’s imagination: the great plains of the US Midwest, endless South American pampas, harvests, tough environments, hostile climates, etc. We’d need to offer a credible transport solution in the form of a vehicle that was solid and robust, with these virtues showing through in features such as the prominent, athletic wheel arches, the pronounced bonnet ribs and the rugged, well-finished interior, consistent with the typical usages of this kind of vehicle. Like the vehicle itself, we wanted to come across as strong and rugged. Impressive but with no hint of arrogance.

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In what ways would you say ALASKAN illustrates the Renault group’s international vision (as regards worldwide or regional release)?

Louis: ALASKAN is eminently international from the outset: designed at the Technocentre in France, developed with Nissan in Japan, and made in Latin America. Our teams were there at each of the development stages, tuning in closely with local cultures and usages to come up with a vehicle that would be matched to its intended usages. I have to admit that my design vision was inevitably coloured by my North American origins. The pick-up is very much part of my own personal cultural background.

Marina: ALASKAN is a very international vehicle. It will provide tailor-made solution to our customers, with a comprhensive range of bodytypes, meeting the local market specification (Double Cab, Extended Cab versions, etc.) European customers will be offered a product with strong technological content, while other regions of the world might prefer more workhorse versions, more closely matched their needs. But everyone will be getting the car in its global launch colour: Brown Vison.

Tags: Alaskan colombie Pick-up