French industry minister to quiz Peugeot family
PARIS (Reuters) -- French Industry Minister Arnauld Montebourg plans to summon members of the Peugeot family to explain why PSA/Peugeot-Citroen had continued to pay dividends even as it was facing mounting difficulties, he told parliament on Tuesday.
PSA said last week that it would cut 8,000 jobs in France and close an assembly plant in Aulnay, near Paris, in 2014 as part of an effort to stem operating losses of 200 million euros ($244 million) a month at its manufacturing division.
"The Peugeot family has a number of things to explain to us and I will invite them to the ministry so that we can discuss them," Montebourg said.
The Socialist government won power in May with a promise to roll back a slow industrial decline that has resulted in the loss of 750,000 manufacturing jobs over the past decade.
Montebourg, who was due to meet with PSA unions on Tuesday afternoon, said that a report by an industry expert to be presented to the government this month would seek to shed light on the situation and strategy of the automaker.
"Why were there certain financial operations at the time when Peugeot was already starting to experience difficulties, particularly dividend payments?" Montebourg said.
The minister added that a government plan for the sector, due on July 25, would outline measures to support environmentally friendly cars, such as electric vehicles -- a strong sector for French manufacturers. Analysts have warned that PSA's announcement could open the floodgates to a round of job cuts by European carmakers.
PSA CEO Philippe Varin said in an interview with Le Monde newspaper on Tuesday that he would "not be surprised" if other European manufacturers cut capacity. The euro zone's continuing economic slowdown has hit demand for vehicles across the region, plunging carmakers into difficulties.
Registrations in the 27-member EU states plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland fell 1.7 percent to 1.25 million vehicles in June, the ninth consecutive monthly of decline, industry association ACEA said Tuesday in a statement. Six-month sales in the EU and EFTA countries dropped 6.3 percent to 6.9 million, down from 7.36 million in 2011, ACEA said.
A survey of French dealerships showed on Tuesday that car orders dropped by 16 percent in June, after a 10 percent decline in May.Contact Automotive News