Inside Renault’s Digital Factory

Renault’s Chief Digital Officer uses Web sensibility to break new ground in selling cars.

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Patrick Hoffstetter came to Renault in 2010 to direct an effort called the Digital Factory — which is not a Web-enabled auto plant, but a playful name for the company’s Web, mobile and social media efforts. He was later named Renault’s chief digital officer. In both roles, he held responsibility for Renault’s digital strategy and operations across its three major brands, Renault, Dacia and Renault Samsung Motors in South Korea, a joint venture with Nissan, with which Renault maintains an alliance. Renault by itself is the tenth largest carmaker in the world (combined with Nissan, it would be fourth).

While it is considered primarily a European carmaker, Renault’s business outside of Europe now exceeds that in Europe, and Brazil is one of its top three markets, along with France and Russia. Hoffstetter also works closely with his counterpart at Nissan, and the two companies are in the process of bringing their digital efforts into closer alignment. Hoffstetter spoke about his role at Renault and the role of technology at the company with Michael Fitzgerald, MIT Sloan Management Review’s contributing editor for Digital Transformation.

What does your job entail?

More and more advertisers, especially big advertisers, are creating this new role of CDO. Very often, the CDO is in charge of strategy and benchmarking and KPI and dashboard, but it’s very rare when he has got hands on the operation. At Renault, the CDO has got an actual digital factory, a digital team to manage strategy, all the way from strategy to implementation. I cover the whole spectrum of digital from platform to content. We’re not only doing the brain, but the hands and the feet. At Renault, the CDO role and the role of the digital factory are quite unique.

My role covers Renault, Dacia and RSM (joint venture in South Korea with Nissan). I’ve got a colleague based in Tokyo in charge of the three Nissan group brands, Nissan, Datsun and Infiniti. During this year, we have been working very closely together in order to deliver synergies between the Nissan digital strategy and the Renault digital strategy. We’re in the middle of a joint project, a RFP that we launched last summer to create a common digital ecosystem between Renault and Nissan.

What does it mean to have a common digital ecosystem?

Today, Renault and Nissan are organized very differently.


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Comment (1)
Viewing a Digital Officer at the same level as a COO (of a different sort) seems like an auto trend trying to define itself on the merits of buzz words rather than value creation. I agree that a shift from engineering to the consumer is overdue but question the wisdom of a centralized marketing system.  In a global platform that differs widely by culture and preference, a centralized digital marketing effort may stifle the very creativity and innovation Renault hopes to capture from its global footprint. 

If I were in Patrick's position, I would build multiple tools for digital marketing and allow each office to create their own social conversations in the language and culture of their choosing. The KPIs can remain the same for everyone but the process of achieving each KPI should be the decision of each country leader. 

There's a book review I wrote a couple of years ago on 'Reverse Innovation'. Some principles of sourcing innovation from remote markets may also apply here.  If interested the article can be viewed at The book is also worth reading, at least the second part where the author covers numerous case studies.

Good luck, Patrick! I admire the pioneer flavor that this article portrays.  I hope my comments offer a slight contrarian view to help keep your own ideas in check.