W hen you talk to Patrick Le Quément - who has over 40 years' experience in the automotive world - there is no doubting his enthusiasm for car design, or his willingness to please. You might think that the man responsible for countless designs, from the Ford Cargo pickup to the first Renault Twingo, has given enough to design, but you'd be wrong. " Mine is clearly not a retirement dedicated to fishing or cycling," Le Quément says. " I have had quite a few offers: attending conferences, doing some tuition, and to be involved in the French Institute of Design, which is currently being created. I was also contacted by a shipbuilder who makes racing boats, and he is interested in using me as a consultant on design management, strategy and how to increase perceived quality." So not really retirement at all then. For now though, Le Quément is not making any decisions, and when he does, he will " only accept things that really interest me". Le Quément admits there are two other things in his life that have interested him: boat design and architecture. " There is an interesting paradox between cars and architecture," he states. " A car is a moving object in which you sit still. A building is static but you can move within it." A car- mad child who liked drawing meant that there was only really one path the Frenchman was going to follow. " I was around 10 years old when I was reading an article about Pininfarina and the Ferrari 350GT. That was when I knew what I would be doing [ for a job]. Until then I thought car design was something that engineers did in their coffee breaks. I never thought I Ford Cargo " This was my first project as an executive designer. Trucks were not as sensitive as cars when it came to design, so I was allowed a lot of freedom. It also gave me the chance to work with Bob Lutz." Ford Sierra " This was a vehicle that worked - eventually! In the UK, it was replacing the final Cortina, and maybe it was asking a bit too much of the conservative British public to accept a futuristic design."
Renault Twingo Mk 1 " My first challenge at Renault. There were many battles to get the car out, including the results of marketing tests, in which almost half the people interviewed did not like the car, even though a quarter were crazy about it." Renault Scenic " The Scenic began as a concept car idea I had in 1991, called the Minimax. It began a new segment in Europe, so it was a great experience." The PLQ files could get paid to do it!" And it is a job he has done very well, with plenty of successful designs, and few regrets: " On some cars I think we should have done things differently, but I am happier to have created strong design statements. I have never been designer that believes in small evolutions. " My biggest regret was that the upper segment car that we wanted to launch, was too far removed from our Initiale concept of 1995. Around that time I was head of quality as well as design, and I concentrated too much on quality, and lost the battle of getting that car into production." The eventual car in that segment was the Vel Satis, which Le Quément believes never really lived up to expectations. Despite owning a Laguna Coupé and Twingo Renaultsport, which he intends to buy when he leaves Renault, Le Quément recognises the efforts made by others. " I appreciate what Peter Schreyer has done with Kia, especially with the Soul. There are some great looking BMWs, which have super proportions - almost no front overhang, very little sheetmetal above the front wheel. I also think that Fiat did a superb job with the 500." Le Quément offers a few words of wisdom for designers just starting out, such as the students highlighted in our Coventry University design course feature: " They should be intent on designing car with less emission and more emotion." THE VEHICLE REVIEW " Young designers should be designing car with less emission and more emotion"