'My hope is to be able to produce 1 million cars per year on the CMF-A platform.'

Gérard Detourbet, Alliance Managing Director, Alliance A-Segment development unit, shares with Sumantra B Barooah how Renault has practiced frugal engineering like never before and the road ahead for the CMF-A platform.

Sumantra B Barooah By Sumantra B Barooah calendar 24 Sep 2015 Views icon6208 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
'My hope is to be able to produce 1 million cars per year on the CMF-A platform.'

The Kwid launch in India marks Renault's first step towards tapping the entry-level segment in global markets. Gérard Detourbet, Alliance Managing Director, Alliance A-Segment development unit (also considered the Father of the Renault Kwid), shares with Sumantra B Barooah how Renault has practiced frugal engineering like never before and the road ahead for the CMF-A platform.

How would you describe the experience of developing the Kwid? Is the most exciting or the most challenging project you have worked on so far?
Most challenging? Surely. Most exciting? No, because I have already done something like that when I was, for example, in the powertrain department. We had created lot of new technologies that were very exciting which were world premiere also.

Challenging, yes, because to try to divide by two one more time. In fact, the cost of the car is a real challenge. And the fact that we have to do that outside our big engineering base at home, to do that in India. So, it is not only the project which is exacting and   presenting is also the fact that we have to create that with people we have not known before.

You were not in a familiar environment?
I have done a lot of work in India, but I have done, for example, I have introduced N90 with Mahindra & Mahindra. So, I know a little bit of India. After that I have introduced H79 (the Duster). I have done some work before. But it is not of the same size at all.

The stakes are much higher now. You said India, starting with the Kwid, will be the lead country for all global projects based on the CMF-A platform.  
Yeah, absolutely. It is mandatory, because now the knowledge is here in India.

Can you confirm that the Kwid will not be the only body style for India? It will have multiple body styles.
Sure. Absolutely sure. But if you take the example of a platform, the M0 platform (the Logan platform). That is one platform but what kind of car we do with that? We did the Logan, Sandero and Duster which is not the same shape as the Logan, and the Lodgy. We have done a pick-up (the Duster Oroch) too. We can do a lot of cars with this platform. We have the same ability with this platform to do a lot of bodies.

Given the composition of the Indian car market, can we expect a portfolio of compact cars from Renault? 
Hmm. We need it. We need to do that.

The CMF-A platform, you say, is good for 10-15 years. Roughly what volume of cars based on this platform do you see getting built?
My hope is to be able to produce let's say not very quickly, but relatively quickly, more than 1 million cars per year. Multiply by ten. That's 10 million.

10 million cars in 10 years?
Maybe more.

What role do you think India would play in the CMF-B or CMF-C platforms?
CMF-B and CMF-C are not developing in India. In that case, Indian suppliers could be helping to localise some parts. But drawing the core of the system is not in India. We are developing. One platform is only one car. We are developing the platform only in one site. And the site where we developing is where we are using a big volume. It is clear that the big cars on the CMF-B platform are not for India. Maybe one day because India is mainly for small cars. But if one day we produce a lot of cars of 4.5 or 5 metres, then maybe we will do that. So, it is clear that if we are manufacturing some CMF-B platform cars, probably we will localise but we are not creating here.

You also say that the Kwid showcases lot of lightweighting efforts. Could you elaborate on that?
In a car you have a lot of kilos which are not useful. Take an example, the brake disc. You could have a brake disc of different types. The brake needs a surface of contact between the pad and the disc. If you do a disc with a thickness of 2cm, you don't increase the capacity of braking. You have to say upto what I could go down, maybe 18, 17 or 16mm. The only thing you have to take care is to ensure that there is not deformation due to the heat generated while braking. So, the question is up to what level I can go down. If you do the normal way, then you do 20mm. If you optimise, you could go down up to 16mm. It's just an idea. And everything has to be done like that.

You also say that the number of parts have been reduced. Compared to a car in its segment, how much lesser parts does the Kwid have?
For the Kwid we need 1000 references. What is a reference? It is, for example, when you have a 1mm screw with 6mm diameter it is one reference but you can use it 20 or 30 times. The number we are using for the Kwid, all included, engine, gearbox everything is 1,000. Normally we have 2,000. So, we have divided by two.

Which is again an engineering philosophy similar to the Logan project but taken to a different level altogether.

You have been in India, on and off. With the CMF-A project you are stationed in India. How different is the experience working in a ground-up project in India as compared to doing the same in Japan or Europe?
Very simple in fact. For example, you have to do a car in Brazil. If you are not working in Brazil you are not optimised. So, if we want to do a car in India, we needed to be in India. So is my entire team of 350 people. If you want to have the best communication you have to be with the people. That is absolutely mandatory.

After that, if you want to have a team which is able to go quick, to interface with the supplier, you should have one boss. I am the boss in my team, contacting with the supplier which has one boss and we deal directly. When you want to optimise you have to be with people. It is absolutely mandatory. If you thousands of kilometres away you cannot see everyday. In mid-2012 I arrived in India, by mid- 2013 I am living with my suppliers. I have seen maybe 15-20 suppliers every day. It was a moment where we are analysing. You have to do that.        

You have a rich experience of working on many big projects across markets. How would you rate the capability of Indian suppliers?
Capabilities for manufacturing are top level. For the conception of the part, some are very good some of them are not good because they are not able to design the part. But they are able to manufacture it. And we are able to discuss with them because we have an idea of the design, they have an idea of the process. By meeting regularly, we are able to find the best design for using the best process. But a lot of them are not able to design the part. But they are improving. I suppose in 3-4 years, they will reach a very good level. Some of them are already at a very good level and exporting parts.

What is your favourite car?
The Duster.

Many foreign OEMs have attempted to make a mark in the compact car segment. Not all have succeeded. Renault has taken a lot of courage.    
If you want to succeed in a country where you are a newcomer and a stranger you need to do things. First is courage and you have to have risk. Because something could work, could not work. But you should also arrive with something more.

The Duster is something more compared to what the market had before. For the Kwid it is the same. We are trying to do something more than the others. Because we want to succeed in this country where we are not known. For example, when I travel and tell people that I work in the automotive industry for Renault-Nissan, people don't know much about it. But when I say Duster, they can connect better. The Duster is more familiar than Renault. So, you have to take risk. And to do something which is able to change the way of thinking of India, of Indian people. But after that, we don't know if it is going to work or not. Why do we take the risk? Because we think India will be a big market one day. We don't know exactly when. The car penetration level is so low. We cannot go out. We have to take the risk.

What was the brief to the engineering team?
Very simple. Less than 4 metres. Competitor of Suzuki, so a small car, not a larger car. Level of cost and design attractiveness.

And the maximum cost target of Rs. 4 lakh?
Obviously. With engineering, if you are not setting a maximum, you will have a Rolls-Royce very quickly!

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