PARIS - It is said in France that there are two main schools one can attend to learn about marketing cars: Ford and Renault. Thierry Dombreval attended both.
At the time he joined Ford, its main model in Europe was the Taunus. Dombreval believes the Taunus had its shortcomings, but his efforts to sell more of them impressed his bosses. They gave him more challenging responsibilities.
During 15 years with Ford France and Ford of Europe, he progressed through a variety of sales and marketing jobs. His last job was general manager in charge of marketing, sales and aftersales for Ford France.
Dombreval's reason for leaving Ford in 1989 had nothing to do with its products. He simply was not prepared to move his family to a new country every three years or so with Ford.
But where to go next?
He already had the equivalent of a degree in automotive marketing. Renault was the obvious choice for a postgraduate course - even if it did involve some travel. The job he was offered was general manager of Renault Italy.
Such travel was not too onerous for a man with deep roots in France's Mediterranean region, and he spent more than four years in Italy.
He is remembered in Italy with affection. An Italian dealer says Dombreval 'was one of the most respected importers.'
No doubt his empathy for Italy owes something to his Midi origins, and Dombreval still enjoys speaking Italian.
'It was an ideal time,' he says of his move to Renault Italy. 'The company was just preparing to launch the Clio, which was a success in Italy where it captured up to 10 percent of its segment.'
Renault sold a record 200,000 cars and commercial vans in Italy in 1991. This was 'a time when the Italian market reached 2.4 million or 2.5 million units a year without incentives,' he says.
Dombreval met Raymond Levy (Renault chairman from 1986 to 1992) shortly before joining Renault.
'Levy asked me why I wished to work with Renault,' says Dombreval. 'I said I believed that Renault would recover and regain its automobile genius, its sense of innovation, practicability, and so on.
'Levy smiled but did not reply. A few months later, after I had been hired, I found out about the Twingo, which was under development, and I understood Levy's smile.'
Dombreval loves cars. He owns a Model A Ford and an old VW Beetle.
After leaving Italy, his responsibility shifted to Renault's international development.
'Outside Europe,' he says, 'the two main rules of marketing concern the pre-eminence of the product and the critical part played by the importer.'
Dombreval's priority is to make Renault's marketing truly international.
Next month he will go to Brazil to work with Luc-Alexandre Menard, Renault's Mercosur division boss, on preparations for the launch of the Scenic there at the end of the year.
After that, he will turn his attention to Russia, where Renault is establishing a joint venture with Moskvich.
'Every month,' he says, 'I visit a different country.'
Renault sells cars in 90 countries. For a man who wanted to restrict his globetrotting, Thierry Dombreval will soon have a fine collection of stamps in his passport.