|Also called||Renault Medallion|
|Production||1987 – 1989|
|Body style(s)||4-door sedan|
4-door station wagon
|Engine(s)||2.2 L I4|
The Eagle Medallion was a rebadged and re-engineered North American version of the French Renault 21. While the cars were built on the same platform, the French market 21 and the American market Medallion differed in features, powertrain availability, frontal styling, and trims. Just as the car was introduced in North America, Renault sold its American business to Chrysler.
The Medallion was developed by Renault and became a captive import for its corporate partner, American Motors (AMC), at the beginning of the 1987 model year. Originally conceived to replace the slow-selling Renault 18i/Sportwagon and the venerable, but canceled AMC Concord in AMC/Renault showrooms, the Medallion was badged as a Renault and briefly remained that way until Chrysler bought out American Motors in August 1987. It then became a captive import for Chrysler and was sold as the "Eagle Medallion" through the newly formed Jeep-Eagle division.
The Medallion used a 2.2 L I4 engine that was borrowed from the European Renault 21. It was mounted in Renault's then-traditional longitudinal (north-south) configuration, which drove the front wheels through either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 3-speed computer-controlled automatic. The longitudinal engine placement was unusual at a time when most contemporary front-wheel drive cars used a more space-efficient transverse engine layout, but it also made for easier access for maintenance and servicing, as well as a smaller turning circle.
The reason for this layout was that the torque of Renault's larger engines (over 2 L) had proven to be too high and longitudinally mounted engines help reduce torque steering. The front-wheel drive gearboxes on a longitudinally engine are centrally mounted meaning they have equal-length axle shafts. In Europe, Renault 21 models with small and less powerful engine displacements below had transverse engines, just like smaller models such as the Renault 9. On the other hand, high-end models with engines of 2 L or more retained the longitudinal layout of the previous Renault 20 and 30 series. The same layout was used for the Renault 25, whose engines all had displacements in excess of 2 L.
When the original European Renault 21 models were shown for 1986, they featured a different design compared to contemporary cars of the era and the new French automobiles most closely resembled the Audi 100 versions that were introduced in 1983. The interior of the Medallion was spacious compared to similar cars in the compact segment. The sedan was also notable for its rather commodious trunk. The station wagon was unique in that it offered a longer wheelbase than the sedan, and featured a front-facing third-row seat, such as in the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser and Ford Freestyle. Base models came in DL trim, while customers could choose up-level LX models, with more standard features, in both body styles, for the duration of the Medallion's run.
Starting in model year 1988, the Medallion was sold under the then-new Eagle brand with "by the mere substitution of a new (and rather handsome) badge." However, they sold no better in part because they were considered conventional automobiles for Renaults, but still too "quirky" for most U.S. customers. Their workmanship was also wanting. Chrysler decided to cease importing this model from Renault at the end of the 1989 model year.
While reviews were initially favorable, the Medallion had a poor launch into the North American market because of AMC's limited marketing resources and persistent industry rumors of problems and Chrysler's takeover of the company, which overshadowed the Medallion's introduction. Therefore, the car never sold well, although it was a solid entry in a highly competitive market segment.
Robert Lutz, the head of the Chrysler Corporation at the time, said in his 2003 book "Guts" that the Medallion, and its larger line mate, the Premier were "salesproof" in that no matter how attractive and competitive the cars were, customers in large enough number to ensure success just wouldn't take notice. In reality, the corporation was drawing a tighter bead on "import intenders," and rather than working with an independent Renault, Chrysler shifted the Eagle models to badge engineered cars sourced from its Japanese partner since 1971, Mitsubishi Motors. At the time, Chrysler was investing in the Diamond-Star Motors manufacturing joint venture and building a new plant in Normal, Illinois with an annual capacity of almost a quarter million vehicles.
The smaller Eagle Summit from Mitsubishi was a stop-gap model intended to give Alliance and Encore owners somewhere to go for a few years, but with the Medallion they were stuck with for a couple of years due to legal issues with Renault.
The imported Medallion also competed with Chrysler's domestic Dodge, Plymouth, and Chrysler models; which may have contributed to a lack of enthusiasm within the company for marketing the Medallion - and the Premier - properly.
- Gold, Aaron. "American-branded Eurocars," About Cars.com, undated, retrieved on August 14, 2008.
- "History Renault 21/21 Nevada," Rene's Renault Pages, undated, retrieved on August 14, 2008.
- "How Eagle Cars Work" by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, June 18, 2007, retrieved on August 14, 2008.
- "Historical Overview: The Eagle Premier, Dodge Monaco, and Medallion", Allpar, undated retrieved on August 14, 2008.
« previous — Eagle road car timeline, 1988–1998
|Crossover||Eagle wagon||Eagle Vista wagon||Eagle Summit Wagon|
American Motors road car timeline, United States market, 1954–1988
|Rebel V8||Marlin||Matador Coupe|
|SUV||see timeline of Jeep models|
|Military vehicles||Mighty Mite||AM General trucks, Jeeps, and the HMMWV|