Renault Trucks has been actively engaged during 2016 in paying tribute to Marius Berliet and celebrating the history of the men and women who helped spread the French truck’s renown from their base in Vénissieux and Saint-Priest on the outskirts of Lyon. The cradle of the Renault Trucks brand, the Lyon site is continuing to design and build tomorrow’s transport solutions.
In 1915, Marius Berliet made the decision to buy up a large number of plots of land in the east of Lyon and build a production plant in Vénissieux. After outgrowing the Monplaisir site in Lyon’s 8th arrondissement, he needed room to undertake his ambitious projects, meet the urgent demand for trucks and contribute to the war effort by producing weapons for the French Army in the grip of the First World War. Marius was up against a huge challenge: in record time, he had to design, build and outfit his plant even as production began. After successfully meeting this challenge, successive extensions took the site’s total area to 387 hectares on the eve of the Second World War.
But Marius Berliet had set his sights on greater things than simply building a plant: “The only motivation behind all my hard work is the burning desire to finally realize my life’s dream: to create a vast, thriving industrial city”. This vision gave birth to the Cité Berliet in 1917, which was built to cater for the plant’s operations. This self-contained town contained housing, a school, a creche and a farm.
Today the Lyon site houses the nerve center of Renault Trucks and is a key component of the industrial and global engineering facilities of the Volvo Group, which the Renault Trucks brand joined in 2001. It hosts over 4,000 people work on a 180 hectare site straddling the municipalities of Vénissieux and Saint-Priest. The site is home to an engine assembly plant, a bridge and axle assembly plant, a swaging center and a spare parts logistics center. In addition to Renault Trucks’ headquarters and global management team, the Lyon site accommodates numerous tertiary activities, including a research facility with a staff of 1,300. It is mainly devoted to developing medium-payload trucks and their engines, as well as transport solutions for urban areas. A design studio boasts a team of international designer to whom we owe the design of Renault Trucks’ new range of trucks launched in 2013 and whose flagship vehicle, the Renault Trucks T, was elected International Truck of the Year 2015.
To celebrate its centenary, the Lyon site is getting into the party spirit and organizing a series of events to spotlight the establishment and its people:
- Family visits
Employees’ families are invited to take a tour of the site to see the different professions at work there, including the Engine Plant, the Swaging Center, the logistics team and the forges. A 1968 Berliet bus, specially renovated for the occasion, shuttles visitors from one location to another.
- Photo exhibition
An exhibition of historical and contemporary photos retraces the history of the site and the buildings over the decades. The exhibition, which has been held alternatively in the site’s three restaurants, is now installed in the entrance hall at Vénissieux.
- Lecture on “Women in the First World War”
Monique Chapelle, Vice President of the Berliet Foundation, gave a lecture in the Paul Berliet Amphitheater in Saint-Priest on Tuesday October 4, 2016. She illustrated her talk with documents borrowed, for the majority of them, from the Berliet Foundation’s archives, and demonstrated the strong involvement of the Rhône-Alpes region’s women in the war effort between 1914 and 1918.
- Graffiti signed IMPACKT
Renault Trucks lent its walls to Lyon-based graffiti artist Franck Asensi, known as “Impackt”. He produced a giant 450m2 “graff” retracing the establishment’s 100 year history over its 80 meter length. It took the artist three months to produce the piece.
- Driverless shuttle (NAVYA): demonstration at the Saint-Priest site
Finally, looking ahead to the future of the site and transport tomorrow, the Lyon establishment is running demonstrations of the NAVYA ARMA, a fully-electric, autonomous public transport vehicle, from October 24 to November 23. This driverless, smart, innovative shuttle can carry up to 15 passengers and travel at speeds of up to 45km/h, all perfectly safely.
The high point of the year’s celebrations, an anniversary ceremony was held on November 10, 2016. It was attended by all of the Lyon establishment’s employees, along with Martin Lundstedt, CEO of the Volvo Group, and Bruno Blin, CEO of Renault Trucks.