PARIS - Louis Schweitzer has sent his protege Patrick Faure to be chief executive officer of the truck subsidiary Renault VI. A major international expansion or joint venture could follow.
Shemaya Levy, who has been head of Renault VI since 1994, will be Renault's new executive vice president in charge of finance, reporting, audit and information systems. He replaces Philippe Gras, who retired in July.
Francois Hinfray, who had been Renault's sales manager for France, succeeds Faure as executive vice president of sales. Patrick Bain, currently general manager of Renault Italy, replaces Hinfray. Georges Douin, vice president in charge of product planning and international operations, was promoted to executive vice president level.
'Faure has received a strong assignment,' said a Renault insider. Despite his 19 years with Renault, Faure is not familiar with the truck business. Levy has spent 20 years with Renault VI.
Another insider said 1999 'is the right time for Renault VI to launch an international venture. It's just about to follow a few years later what Renault did in the car business.'
Faure is not a prisoner of Renault VI tradition. For two years, he has managed the venture between Renault and General Motors to make a new light commercial vehicle due to replace the Trafic by 2000.
Inside Renault, he is a strong supporter of alliances with other carmakers that focus on specific models or common components.
Under Levy, Renault VI had already taken some first steps.
This year, Renault VI and Iveco merged their bus operations in a common joint venture. In 1997 agreements were signed with Daf, ZF and Sisu of Finland to develop common components. A larger cooperation with MAN regarding engines failed.
And profitability returned this year. After losses in 1996 and 1997, Renault VI had a FF513 million operating profit in the first half.
But it has been a struggle. While subsidiary Mack Trucks is No. 3 in the USA, Renault VI is No. 5 in Europe. Renault VI has significant market share only in France (39 percent in 1997) and in Spain (20 percent).
Under Chairman Raymond Levy, Renault VI was spun off and told it must develop its own capital, with no help from its parent company. The alliance with Volvo in 1990 was going to let Renault VI lean on a truckmaker leader, but when the alliance collapsed in 1993, Renault VI found itself alone.