In 1976, Renault launched a car which set the template for the mid-sized hatchback which became the default choice of households, if not the world over, at least in Europe…
The ill-advised press campaign that soon followed, however, made a fool of their customers – and of the rest of the motor industry. Building on the success of the R4 and R16, and just like the R5 a few years before it, the R14 offered maximum interior space for passengers and their luggage in a compact footprint, draped in a modern, unostentatious bodywork.
Renault’s executive must have felt reasonably confident about the potential of their latest model, and they first shared the good news in the form of a campaign that revolved around two key ideas: the fiscal classification of the car (‘7CV’) and happiness (‘bonheur’), which were illustrated with weirdly twee depictions of families on pastoral outings. Like Socialist Realism – with ponies!
It is highly unlikely however that the campaign captured the imagination of the working and middle-classes it sought to seduce. Soon after, ‘la Régie’, as it was then known, approved a more radical approach to get its message across.
Unavoidably, the motoring press (and in fairness, the public at large – but what would they know?) saw it merely as a clumsy attempt to compare the car with a fruit (in this case a pear, narrow at one end, plump and wide at the other), and whatever positive connotations it may carry – ‘A pear is comfortable’ proclaimed Renault at its most puzzling.
Today this could be seen as a barely disguised tribute to Surrealist manifesto and the works of René Magritte, albeit in a slightly confused attempt at ‘overthrowing the oppressive rationalism of bourgeois society’. Or maybe Jean-Paul Sartre, perched on an oil barrel outside the factory only a few years prior, would have given the campaign his existentialist seal of approval…
But for the man on the street, no doubt aided by a reactionary press still reeling from the outcome of the events of 1968, the owner of a R14 was nothing but a ‘gullible fool’, or ‘poire‘ in the common French vernacular.
Photo credits: delcampe.net, 1418.net and many more