The death of Bernard Hanon, former CEO of Renault

He took part in the birth of the R5, took the risk of launching the revolutionary Renault Espace and decided to launch the brand in Formula 1. Finally, Bernard Hanon made more of an impression on the minds of the imprint he left on the range of the French car manufacturer only by his stint at the management of the Régie, from which he was abruptly disembarked in 1985. The one who was called inside the company “the American” died on November 10, at the age 89.

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Bernard Hanon was born on January 7, 1932 in Bois-Colombes (Hauts-de-Seine), but the Second World War pushed his parents, two Polish Jewish immigrants, to flee to Africa before settling in Palestine. At the Liberation, his family returned to Paris, where he joined the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, then HEC before Columbia University in New York.

His first experience at Renault dates back to 1959, when he was made marketing director of the American subsidiary. At the time, the Régie tried to conquer the United States thanks to the Dauphine. An adventure without a future. Bernard Hanon returned to Paris to begin his ascent at Renault from 1966.

Social showcase

Head of the economic studies and programming department, then director of IT and planning, it was he who persuaded the management to launch into the still fledgling market for the second car. Based on his experience in the United States, he is convinced that, with more and more women working, new uses of the automobile will emerge. The reflection led to the launch of the R5 in 1972, which would become one of the Régie’s greatest successes.

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Deputy Managing Director in 1976, he was appointed Managing Director in 1981. Renault then gave “The image of a France that wins”, estimates the historian specialist of the automobile Jean-Louis Loubet: victories in Grand Prix of F1 with Alain Prost, in the Tour de France with Bernard Hinault, and in rally with Jean Ragnotti and his R5 Turbo. At the industrial level, Renault is still the leading European brand and represents 40% of the French market. It is in this falsely reassuring context that the new socialist government decides in August to appoint Bernard Hanon as president of the Régie to succeed Bernard Vernier-Palliez.

In the wake of François Mitterrand’s victory, Renault must more than ever play its role of social showcase. The public company is encouraged, under the benevolent eye of an omnipotent CGT, to hire young people on a massive scale, to switch to 39 hours per week, to grant a fifth week of paid leave, to revise the classification of employees, boosting the payroll of 700 million francs …

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