“Jobs will disappear”… Carlos Tavares leaves Stellantis employees with a battery of questions…

“Jobs will disappear”… Carlos Tavares leaves Stellantis employees with a battery of questions…

2023-06-04 17:15:48

He had not set foot in the Rennes factory since 2018. Carlos Tavares was then “only” the boss of a PSA group that he was just starting to raise. Now at the head of Stellar, the man leads a veritable automotive empire that brings together 14 international brands including Peugeot, Citroën, Fiat, Dodge, Opel, Chrysler and Maserati. Suffice to say that Carlos Ghosn’s former number 2 at Renault weighs heavily when he looks at this ultra-competitive industrial sector.

On Thursday, the man who describes himself as “a performance psychopath” visited the historic Janais factory in Chartres-de-Bretagne, near Rennes. An emblematic site of Citroën which employed more than 12,000 people but almost closed its doors in 2015.

Known for having produced the Ami 6, the BX or the 407, the Janais today shapes the Citroën C5 Aircross and the Peugeot 5008 with just over 2,000 employees who have survived social plans. And after ? The plant has received the assurance of welcoming a new vehicle in 2025 for a major technological shift: the future Citroën will be 100% electric. Not enough to reassure the teams.

“I congratulated the teams for the extraordinary progress”

Don’t ask Carlos Tavares to tell you what will become of its French factories. Even if he knew it, the boss of Stellantis would tell you nothing, preferring to drown his answer in an international context, sometimes evoking the dynamism of the Brazilian market, sometimes the choices of the European Union to bet on electricity ( which he strongly contests). Faced with questions from Rennes employees, worried about soon having only one vehicle to run their production tool, the big boss remained evasive. “This factory plays an essential role for the brand. She made the most beautiful Citroëns in history. I congratulated the teams for the extraordinary progress made here. In terms of quality, we have achieved our objectives, but economically, we are not there yet”.

Good, but could do better. Goofy about performance, the big boss prefers the profitability figures displayed by the group’s Spanish sites. The site is working to compact itself to limit its energy consumption, which soared last year.

In a few months, the Rennes factory will recover the entire production of the 5008, which it now shares with Sochaux. And after ? Like its Doubs counterpart, it is preparing for the arrival of a future electric vehicle on a new platform unique in the world. “I trust the teams. The new line will have a very high technological level. It should be more compact and limit internal logistics to avoid additional costs. I saw the plans and it looks very good to me,” explains Carlos Tavares. “With what numbers? asked the unions. “It’s impossible to answer that. We live in a chaotic, geopolitically unstable world. I am only an economic actor, ”replies the boss of the group. Hard to swallow when we scan the table of results of the group which achieved 179.6 billion euros in turnover in 2022 (+16%).

The electric car, yes, but at what price?

Positioned in a high-end segment, the Janais plant has seen its production decline from year to year, reaching the meager figure of 71,700 vehicles last year. After changing everything to fit, here it is again forced to metamorphose to dedicate itself to the electric. “There are trades that will disappear”, warns the manager, before reassuring. “There are others that will be created”.

Announced as “a high-end family vehicle”, this future electric called “CR3” will not be within the reach of all budgets. How many will be produced in Brittany? Impossible to know. “Carlos Tavares came with empty pockets, no scoop. As usual, he always expects more from employees, but by giving the minimum, ”said Laurent Valy, secretary of the CFDT, the majority union on the site.

By developing its own platform almost entirely dedicated to electricity, the Janais could come out on top on the European market, which will ban heat engines from 2035. The problem is how the market will welcome its future family car. Today, an electric vehicle costs 40% more to manufacture. “And no customer will agree to pay 40% more,” warns Carlos Tavares. It will undoubtedly be up to governments to support their industry, otherwise production will leave France. And plunge the Janais into a very dark future.

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