Renault: Innovative key card ended 20 years of development

The innovative key card was first designed by Renault 20 years ago and, despite minor setbacks along the way, was widely accepted by consumers.

Originally reminiscent of agent 007’s gadget, the hands-free card was gradually adopted by manufacturers around the world, and ended up being part of the standard equipment of many cars.

As was the case with the hatchback, widely popularized in the early 60’s, this small item – which is just over a credit card – was one of Renault’s top innovations, leaving its mark on the history of the automotive industry.

Renault Innovative key card
Renault Innovative key card

It all started in 2001. Renault was poised to start selling the Laguna II, the sedan intended to embody the concept of the lifestyle car of the 21st century. However, its designers felt that the car lacked a few more features.

Not long before its official launch, Bernard Dumondel, head of product for Laguna II, was staying at a hotel in Luxembourg. Opening his room with a magnetic card, he conceived the idea: why not use a contactless card, instead of the conventional key, to unlock a car? That’s how the idea behind the hands-free card was born.

Bernard decided to present a prototype of his idea to the director of the program, this idea fascinated the Renault managers (including Louis Schweitzer himself, the later CEO of Renault) and eventually the whole project was approved, adopted and the patent was patented.

Bernard Dumondel, the product manager for the Laguna II, was the one who designed Renault’s first hands-free card. The Laguna II of 2001 was the first Renault model to be supplied with a hands-free card.

After the 1973 Renault 16 TX – the first French car with electromagnetic locks and central locking – and the Renault Fuego of 1982, with the revolutionary locks with remote control, the Laguna II was the first mass-produced car to be equipped with a hands-free card. It was originally referred to as the “vehicle without a key”.

In the years that followed, Renault improved this accessory and included it in the equipment of both Espace and Vel Satis. It then helped spread it, as it was adopted by the models of its entire range, from the Clio and the Scenic, to the Megane.


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