PSA, Renault products suffer from 'lack of ambition,' ex-Valeo CEO Morin says
Former Valeo CEO on PSA: "When you do everything right but too late, you do it all wrong."
Thierry Morin gained an insider's understanding of Renault and PSA/Peugeot-Citroen during his nine years as CEO of French partsmaker Valeo. Now a consultant, Morin was asked for his views on what the automakers should be doing to become more successful, particularly in Europe against their German rivals. Morin was interviewed by Automotive News Europe Correspondent Bertrand Gay
What is your assessment of Renault?
I have to congratulate Renault for the growth of its international sales in markets such as Brazil and Russia. The alliance with Nissan was a very wise decision by [former CEO] Louis Schweitzer. In 1999, Nissan was a badly managed company with lots of engineering skills. Nissan is an important part of the success Renault is enjoying today. Renault's entry range is another part of its success because it has allowed the carmaker to compete for buyers looking for low-cost vehicles.
What about PSA/Peugeot-Citroen?
When you do everything right but too late, you do it all wrong. Before reaching a dead end, PSA decided to forge a partnership with a manufacturer [General Motors] that I don't consider to be among the industry's leaders of the pack. Overall, I think there is a lack of ambition [when it comes to product] from the French manufacturers.
What should Renault and PSA have done differently in the past 10 years?
The main mistake that Renault and PSA made was to assume that the only way to reduce CO2 was to make smaller engines. The technologies available today clearly show that this was a misconception. The consequence was that the French brands lost the few positions they had in the premium car market. Leaving that part of the market was a mistake because those models are among the most profitable. It's a pity that there are no high-performance engines in PSA and Renault vehicles anymore. Instead of choosing what's best for the customer, a car manufacturer should listen to what he wants. French manufacturers are convinced that they know what is best for their customers.
What has happened to car manufacturers since 2009?
I see that rich and powerful car manufacturers have gotten even more powerful widening the gap with some of their competitors. General Motors has just bought some time with the help of the U.S. government. Japanese and German manufacturers have kept on succeeding as they have for last four decades. In Germany and Japan, the CEOs have spent their careers in the automotive business. It's their life. That is a major difference compared with the French manufacturers.
What are the main differences between the German and French carmakers?
Year after year, the gap widens between German and French car manufacturers. Germans, just like the Japanese, always deliver better cars to market. They are really passionate about cars and they are focused on improving everything about their cars from one generation to the next. When you get in an Audi A1, it is exceptionally refined for such a small car and it echoes the premium-ness of the bigger A6 or A8. While German CEOs are real 'car guys,' in France, many people thought that being a wise and talented executive was enough to be successful in the automotive business. It proved wrong sometimes. This lack of obsession is the main difference between France and Germany. I think that being too disconnected from the product is a problem.
You can reach Bertrand Gay at email@example.com.