For a mainstream OEM, Renault is particularly good at two things: niche vehicles and hot hatchbacks. Both can add considerably to a company’s bottom line because they sell for higher margins than ordinary hatchbacks or sedans.
Renault has applied its talents to developing a small roadster from the 10-year-old platform used to underpin the original Renaultsport Clio. By doing this it could keep development costs down but deliver a compact, fun-to-drive vehicle that would help to improve its brand image.
The Wind is the result. Market research had identified a potential market of 100,000-150,000 units – more than enough to be profitable if an existing platform, chassis and powertrains were used.
“We wanted to make an affordable two-seat car and we wanted innovation,” says Yannick Mollard, Renault’s programme director for the Wind. “So we had the idea of using a rotating roof panel. This also helps to preserve trunk space – something not offered in the market today.”
Approval for the programme was received in 2008, and development took 30 months. Overall project lead came from Renaultsport Technologies’ headquarters in Les Ulis, near Paris. The engineers there worked closely with colleagues at Renault’s technocentre in Guyancourt.
The starting point for the Wind was the old Clio 2 platform, rather than the one used in the current Clio, because it’s cheaper, Mollard says, and because it’s smaller. The 2,368mm wheelbase is common with the A-segment Twingo, so the Wind could be built on the same line in the Novo Mesto plant in Slovenia.
Benchmark models included the Peugeot 207 CC folding hardtop and the Mini and Smart cabriolets. “None of these cars is really alike but they are among the models we looked at to position the Wind.
“And we looked at the Mazda MX-5 too, of course, because it’s a very stiff vehicle – very good fun to drive,” he says.
With the exception of the Mazda, these are all roofless versions of existing models, and so aren’t too special to look at. And none of them is exactly practical either – Renault’s research said that this was an important attribute for potential customers.
The roof solution chosen by Mollard’s team – a single-piece rotating design – addressed both issues. A fabric roof was ruled out because consumers value the increased safety and security of a solid roof. And the rotating roof is lighter than a typical folding hardtop. Even the lightweight MX-5 roof module is 37kg.
|tags:||Oct 2010 Renault Body-in-white Chassis|