A significant design defection has occurred in the French car industry.
The country’s most powerful automotive company, Renault, has managed to lure away PSA’s chief designer, Gilles Vidal.
It has been confirmed that the 47-year old Frenchman will now report to Renault’s head of design, Laurens van den Acker, after two and a half decades at PSA.
Vidal originally joined Citroën in 1996, after graduating from the prestigious Art Centre College of Design, in Vevey, Switzerland. Vans might not figure as design icons, but one of Vidal’s first projects was restyling the Berlingo, which became hugely popular in Europe after his intervention.
Promotion came swiftly for Vidal, who assumed control of Citroën’s experimental design and concept cars, by 2005. With an ability to make seemingly mundane vehicle configurations appear aspirational, Vidal proved his skill with the C4 and C4 Picasso, before moving to Peugeot in 2009.
Citroën and Peugeot’s cars have always been regarded as superior designs to most rival products from Renault. Vidal’s departure from PSA, and his new position at Renault, could meaningfully alter how the balance of design accolades are applied to French cars.
Although Laurens van den Acker retains his position of absolute authority regarding Renault’s overall design direction, Vidal has quite obviously been hired to reinvigorate the brand’s product portfolio. His eye for detail and ability to integrate a unique feel and distinguishing appearance to relatively affordable vehicles at Peugeot should transfer well to Renault. Fans of the brand will be keenly anticipating Vidal’s new work.
PSA has not announced Vidal’s replacement yet, but his loss will be keenly felt, especially at a time of great disruption at the company, as it prepares for a deeply complicated merger with FCA.