Build on existing strengths. Renault had a strong record of innovation before le Quement joined. The Renault 4 was the world's first hatchback, the R8 broke ground with four disc brakes, the R16 had a totally modular interior, and the Espace was the first MPV (multipurpose vehicle) in Europe. "They weren't pretty cars, but they were inspired and intelligent," le Quement says.
But don't keep repeating yourself. Respect for the past doesn't mean being stuck in it. "Anything retro is retrograde. It's driving while looking in the rearview mirror, admitting you've run out of ideas."
Make sure your organization recognizes the intellectual weight of design. "We publish books, write reports, and make films so that we have the intellectual presence to participate in the debate."
Expose your ideas. "Concept cars are of extraordinary importance to us. They're a reservoir of ideas that allow us to establish the furthest point of our frontiers and the direction we're going. And they're fabulous accelerators of innovation. Some people say it's crazy to expose our latest design thinking, but concept cars are of as much importance within the company as outside."
A version of this article appeared in the December 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.