One would expect a man from Marseilles to be French to the core, but Patrick Le Quément is a true internationale. Although born in the French port city, he moved to the UK with his family and after schooling in Britain, won a degree in design from the Birmingham Institute of Art & Design.
After he graduated he returned to France in 1965 to train with Simca; but in 1968 accepted a senior design job with Ford, where he designed a Ford Cargo truck, and in 1982, working in the Merkanich Design Centre in Cologne, Germany, he penned the seminal Ford Sierra.
He then went to the USA with Ford, but in 1985 was hired by VWAG Chairman Carl Hahn to set up an advanced design studio for Volkswagen in Wolfsburg.
Over at Renault sales were falling. Since 1956 the company had used Italian Carrozzeria Ghia for a number of designs, plus external design consultants, and in-house design staff to create its new models.
The Chairman at the time, Raymond Lévy decided that ‘pure French design’ would improve the product identity and boost Renault’s image, so he lured Patrick to Boulogne-Billancourt in 1987.
Before he agreed, Le Quément demanded structural reporting changes. He no longer wanted Design to be run by Engineering, so Lévy agreed that Patrick and his design centre would report direct to the Chairman.
Then began a period of unique, inspired, original designs. Some were instantly well received, some took a while to win acceptance and others never took off at all. However, Renault under Lévy achieved its aim, to offer a refreshed lineup of totally-unique French cars, with typically eccentric appeal.
1992 saw the incredibly successful Twingo city car.
In 1994 Le Quément then created a new face for the Espace, which in 1984 was the world’s first people-mover and a brave design move.
His second take on the cute Renault Megane, with its ‘Bustle Back’ was more ‘out there’ and although a fabulous little car that sold well, it was certainly controversial.
But, there was more to come which challenged current design thinking. Again, the designs were unique and controversial. Patrick served up the Avantime, which was a combo coupe/MPV which sold poorly.
It was followed by the luxury sedan badged as the Vel Satis, which was also too unusual for the market.
However, Patrick’s design team saved the day by coming up with the stylish, and popular Laguna.
Patrick Le Quément retired from Renault in 2009, but left a legacy of striking ideas, innovative design and a reputation as a risk-taker with a great sense of personal style.