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7 Feb, 2008 03:50

Russia’s biggest carmaker to share Renault design secrets

The world's fourth-largest carmaker Renault will soon be sharing its technological expertise with Russia's Avtovaz. The French firm is purchasing a 25 per cent stake in the troubled carmaker. The deal is expected to be completed this month.

Renault has raised the Russian flag at its giant Centre for Technology and Design on the outskirts of Paris. It's making sure workers know they've got a new partner.

The Renault Design Centre is a city in itself, employing 12,000 workers, including designers from all over the world. The question is whether it can find a common language with its new Russian partner as successfully as it's done with Nissan, turning the Japanese firm from the brink of bankruptcy to a predicted profit this fiscal year of $ US 6.8 billion.

The man due the credit for convincing Renault boss Carlos Ghosn of diverting resources to Russia is Christian Esteve, who's in charge of European operations. “The company's run by the product, so first we do the product planning, market, customers. We'll give them our knowledge,” he said.

The car major gave Business Today an exclusive peek at the heart of its operation, the central design studio. The team has already held its first meeting with their Avtovaz counterparts to discuss technology transfer.

Renault's Design Chief, Patrick Le Quement, will receive the lifetime achievement prize at the Autobest Car Awards later this month. He claims the talent of Russian designers already working for him suggests the technology flow with Avtovaz won't be a one-way street.

“We will be very open to sharing our technology, to sharing our skills,” he said.

The French firm promises Avtovaz access to what's been dubbed “the most expensive car on the planet”. This is a two-million-euro driving simulator allowing it to realistically test its ABS, steering and other innovations without leaving the building.

Renault says it's the first carmaker in the world to have a driving simulator. It claims up to 65 per cent savings on development costs by testing new designs here rather than building expensive real prototypes.