PARIS - Renault has moved its headquarters 2km down the Seine river in Boulogne-Billancourt, from quai du Point du Jour to quai Le Gallo, just opposite the magnificent Saint-Cloud park.
Around 3,500 staff across many departments have made the move to quai Le Gallo so far this year, and also to Renault's recently-opened technical center at Guyancourt. Another 3,500 employees are due to move shortly.
Meanwhile, Nissan Europe continues to study options to move to new headquarters in France or the UK, or to stay in Amsterdam. Insiders say Carlos Ghosn, Nissan Motor Co.'s chief operating officer, thought the Amsterdam headquarters too big and costly following his first visit there last year.
A decision on Nissan's headquarters is due by the spring. A senior Nissan executive said departments could be split, with some being relocated to Renault at Boulogne-Billancourt.
Opened in 1975, the Point du Jour building was used to house Renault's top management and related staff, and key corporate departments such as finance, legal affairs, marketing, communication, and product planning.
The building was equally famous for its 1960s and 1970s art collection, which decorated the reception hall, lobbies, dining rooms and top managers' offices.
Le Gallo was built in the early 1990s to house common operations of the planned Renault/Volvo alliance. After the merger failed in late 1993, the building eventually housed Renault's purchasing department. But last autumn the purchasing department moved to the Guyancourt technical center and the Rueil engine division.
'We needed to optimize our location in Boulogne at a time when the expensive Point du Jour lease (FF65 million, A10 million per year) was coming to an end,' said Michel Auroy, Renault's secretary general in charge of real estate affairs.
Renault's headquarters now consist of five separate locations within a 1km radius. Two are located at quai Le Gallo: the first houses the top management and staff (650 people), the other finance and international operations (850 people). The communications, human resources and real estate departments are split into three separate locations. Product planning moved to Guyancourt last year.
As part of the reorganization, Renault is also trying to sell its 50 hectares of real estate elsewhere in Billancourt. Among the land it wants to sell is the famous Ile Seguin (Seguin island) site, where Louis Renault's plant operated from 1929-91, and an area known as the Trapeze, the historical headquarters of Renault. This includes the workshop where Louis Renault invented his famous direct-drive gearbox in 1898.
Around 3,500 people still work at Trapeze in the car sales division, commercial vehicles division and information systems department. Trapeze also houses some non-engineering platform teams.
'We must find a solution within three to four years for these departments. They presently occupy about 20 percent of the whole Trapeze area,' said Auroy.
The case is sensitive, not only because of the historical links between Renault and Boulogne-Billancourt, but also because of the complexity of French town planning rules and local government organizations.
'The French state does not want Renault to make a flop of this sale, both as Renault's main shareholder and tax collector. Renault and the city of Boulogne-Billancourt are doomed to get along with each other,' said Auroy.
But one thing is sure: Renault will not leave Boulogne in the future. A decision about the location of Renault's future long-term headquarters must be taken this year. Auroy said: '(Renault Chairman and Chief Executive) Louis Schweitzer has already said that Renault's headquarters will remain in Boulogne.'