Insight - 01/15/24

Design Object Series N. 011

5 min

By the IW team

Anne Asensio and the Renault Scénic

In our Design Object Series we highlight iconic objects designed by women. Many of the contributions of women to design have been obscured if not erased throughout history. We want to do our part to counteract this effect by celebrating the women behind a wide range of iconic design objects. In this issue, we salute living pioneer Anne Asensio for her work on the innovative concept car that would become the bestselling Renault Scénic and yield generations of popular family car designs. 

The history of automotive design is filled with iconic models that have left an indelible mark on the industry. Among these legends stands the Renault Scénic, a compact MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) that revolutionized the way families travel. Spanning over a quarter of a century, the Renault Scénic has continuously evolved, adapting to the changing needs of consumers and the ever-shifting landscape of automotive design. We’ll share the rich history of the Renault Scénic, from its inception in the early 1990s to its latest all-electric iteration. Furthermore, we will explore the influential role of Anne Asensio, a prominent female designer, in shaping the Scenic’s success and the broader automotive design landscape.

From Concept to Reality

The story of the Renault Scénic begins in 1991 when the automotive world was introduced to the Mégane Scénic concept at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Designed under the supervision of Anne Asensio, then Head of Design at Renault, this concept car heralded a new era in family transportation. With a focus on passenger well-being and comfort, the Mégane Scénic was designed “from the inside out.” Asensio oversaw the creation of a vehicle that would redefine the compact MPV segment. Her vision went beyond aesthetics; she prioritized the well-being of passengers, pioneering innovations such as expansive windows for superior visibility. Her design philosophy was rooted in creating a comfortable and safe environment for families, a hallmark of the Scénic’s success.

Renault is a French automotive company known for their commitment to performance (including Formula 1 cars) and innovation. The Mégane Scénic concept car was a technological showcase, a design study aimed at producing a 21st-century family vehicle embodying Renault’s idea of the “car for life and living”. The “invitation to travel” theme was thoroughly developed in this cocoon-like vehicle, through form, color and trim, but also through its functional innovations and safety features.  The car was not only pioneering but also safe, comfortable, and remarkably easy to drive. Its expansive windows offered excellent visibility, a testament to the attention to detail that went into its design. 

The road-going version of the Mégane Scenic made its debut in dealerships in 1996. Renamed simply the Scénic, it quickly established itself as a game-changer in the automotive world. It was the first compact MPV designed to cater to the needs of families, offering spacious interiors, practical technology, and a heightened focus on safety. In recognition of its groundbreaking design and innovative features, the Scénic was awarded the prestigious title of European Car of the Year in 1997. Renault’s vision, brought to life by Anne Asensio’s design skill, had struck a chord with consumers across Europe and beyond.

Evolution and Impact of the Renault Scénic

The success of the Scénic did not stop with its initial release. In the years that followed, Renault continued to refine and upgrade the Scénic, keeping the core elements that made it a beloved family vehicle while embracing new technologies and design trends. One of the key strengths of the Scénic was its adaptability to different eras and markets. While Renault continually upgraded the model, it retained its distinctive features, including comfort, safety, and useful technology. Even in the second-hand market the original Scénic remains popular, a testament to its enduring appeal.

In 2022, Renault announced a radical transformation for the Scénic, marking the fifth generation of this iconic model. Named the Scénic E-Tech electric, this all-electric family vehicle represents a paradigm shift in the Scenic’s evolution. Everything about it is new, except for the name. Renault has reimagined its invitation to travel with a high-tech, connected vehicle that encapsulates their commitment to sustainable development and safety. 

A Historic Contribution

The Renault Scénic’s journey through automotive history is a testament to its enduring legacy as a pioneer in the compact MPV segment. From the visionary concept by Anne Asensio to its latest transformation as the Scénic E-Tech electric, this model has consistently evolved while staying true to its core values of comfort, safety, and innovation.

In her distinguished career, Anne Asensio has consistently pushed the boundaries of design in the automotive industry. Her expertise extends to both the automotive and digital sectors, demonstrating her adaptability and innovative thinking. Asensio’s commitment to sustainability is evident in her role as the Circular Design Leader at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Her partnership with global organizations, policymakers, and educators underscores her dedication to promoting circular design principles and practices. As the WW Vice-President of Design Experience at Dassault Systèmes, she has led teams, developed design strategies, and driven innovation for over 15 years.  Her design philosophy and commitment to user well-being have shaped not only the Scénic but also the broader design landscape.

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