We are November 17, 1986. The news creates astonishment in the country and at Renault. Georges Besse, CEO of the car manufacturer, is assassinated by Action Directe. The company is in shock but cannot do without a manager.
A month later, the Minister of Industry Alain Madelin called Raymond Lévy to replace him. Barely two years at the head of the manufacturer, Besse had started a recovery plan for Renault. But the business is still very fragile. Raymond Lévy has his work cut out for him.
A new strategy
In the days following taking office, Raymond Lévy went to the United States. On the program, a visit to the group’s industrial sites. Renault has there the manufacturer AMC, also manufacturer of Jeeps. He reassures, promises investments, evokes the American projects of Renault, galvanizes the troops. On Friday evening, he gets on a plane to Paris.
A few days later, the American directors received a letter from Raymond Lévy. He announces to them that the American subsidiary is sold to Chrysler.
Renault employees have just discovered that the promises only engage those who believe in them and that the new boss is capable of making a decision.
Renault reinvents its model
To begin with, a small revolution, Renault is implementing just-in-time production and systematic training of all staff in the most recent methods in place in Japan and Germany. Germany is precisely the model announced.
The Golf is a hit everywhere in Europe, Renault is going to make its French Golf! Raymond Lévy sets up a series of quantifiable objectives for quality, costs, deadlines, at all levels of the company. The boss’s obsession can be summed up in an anecdote.
On arriving at Renault, he summons the executives and explains to them that he knows the Renault 25 well, which he used as a company car. But quickly the smiles give way to amazement. The new boss explains to them that he finds it totally unacceptable to have a top of the range unable to drive a week without going to the garage!
Renault returns with new ambitions and announces its return to Formula 1 and the launch of a new car worthy of the Germans.
The opening of the single European market scheduled for 1992 requires Renault to sell vehicles throughout Europe. The brand no longer has the right to make mistakes.
The zero-defect car
The R19 will be the first Renault designed with 3D CAD tools. The assembly lines are fully automated. For the style, we entrust the design to Giorgetto Giugiaro, a guarantee of success.
But before putting it into production, the brand’s engineers cover more than 7.5 million kilometers in Lapland, in hot countries, on the German motorway and in all conditions. The year is 1987, and the first spy photos of the prototypes are starting to circulate in the press.
A very complete range
The Renault 19 was officially presented to the press in June 1988. The papers are good and the marketing in September starts quite well.
The 19 renews the brand’s style while retaining a certain classicism appreciated by lovers of compact cars. With five different engines, four levels of finishes, it offers more than 70 variants. It must be said that it is also available in a three-door version, and a four-door version called Chamade.
The equipment is not ridiculous on the mid-range versions. But on the engine side, it’s classic. The Cleon cast iron engine is always on the road. A modernized block but whose origins date back to the R8!
She can be bourgeois
To improve its image, Renault offered in May 1990 a sporty 16S version with a more advanced presentation.
The following year, in July 1991, it was already time for restyling with a grille incorporating an air intake. But to be even more chic, it is the arrival of a convertible version that makes its appearance. Made with the bodybuilder Karmann, it has been a great success.
Became the third best-selling car in France, just behind the Peugeot 205 and Renault 5.
But it is in Germany that she surprises, by becoming the best-selling foreigner in Germany.
Data sheet: Renault 19 16 valves
Motor : four cylinders in line
Disposition : Front transverse
Distribution: Double overhead camshaft
Displacement: 1764 cc
Power : 137 horsepower at 6,500 rpm
Couple: 16.5 mkg at 4250 rpm
Gearbox : 5 reports
Front brakes: Ventilated discs
Length : 415 cm
Width : 169 cm
Height : 141 cm
Chest : 386 liters
Weight : 1118 kg
Max speed: 212 km / h
0 to 100 km / h: 8.6 sec
Period rates: In September 1988, the Renault 19 was offered from 64,000 F in a 5-door 19 TR version. At the time, the hourly minimum wage was 28.73 francs. It was therefore necessary to work 2,228 hours to pay for one;
Today the Megane starts at € 24,700. The hourly minimum wage is € 10.48. So you have to work 2,357 hours to afford one.