Jean-Christophe Kugler has a lot on his plate these days. As head of Renault's LCV division, Kugler, 47, runs a business unit that CEO Carlos Ghosn regularly describes as one of the French carmaker's three pillars of profitability. Kugler admits that selling vans and delivery trucks to businesses is challenging in today's difficult economic environment. The recession has pushed Kugler to ramp up LCV cooperation with Renault's Japanese alliance partner Nissan. The downturn also has given a greater sense of urgency to ongoing talks with other carmakers about sharing designs and platforms or joint manufacturing operations. Kugler is a strong supporter of Renault's push toward electric vehicles, and is at the center of work on the French carmaker's planned launch of a plug-in utility vehicle in 2011. A 25-year Renault veteran, Kugler held a range of quality control and engineering posts across the carmaker's global operations, including stints in Argentina and Belgium, before taking over the LCV division in 2008.
Renault Senior Vice President, Light Commercial Vehicles.
English, French, Spanish.
Wife Veronique, daughter Marina (24), son Romain (21).
Countries lived in:
Degree in mechanical and robotics engineering from Ecole Centrale, Nantes, France.
What was your first car?
Mazda 323 RWD.
What's in your garage now?
Renault Koleos, second-generation Clio and first-generation Megane coupe.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Which person has had the greatest influence in making you who you are today?
My mother, for her frugality; my father, for his creativity.
Describe your perfect day
Hiking with my wife in the Alps, then having a picnic lunch, and coming home at about 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. in the rain. Then we watch a good film while drinking something warm.
What's your greatest professional achievement?
Working on the industrial launch of the first Clio in 1989 in Belgium. I learned a lot, I gave everything I could, and I found out that you can be successful with a very small team.
What do you do to relax?
Going to the cinema.
If you could work in another industry, what would it be?
I'm very interested in renewable energies, like solar and wind power. It's probably the area where we're going to see the greatest use of technology for meeting future needs.
What's the first thing you do when you get home?
I have dinner! I usually get home late so I'm hungry.
What kind of books do you read?
I like detective stories, works on the medieval period and science fiction.
If you could meet any figure from history, who would it be and why?
I would want to meet former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, who was an exceptional manager. He identified a few simple rules that were easily applicable.
What is your fondest memory?
Watching "2001: A Space Odyssey" with my father in a very small cinema.
What was your last important purchase?
A little forest in the south of France.
What's your greatest extravagance?
My last big purchase!
How would you describe your character?
Open, curious, direct, and sometimes hard to please, I imagine.
What traits do you dislike in others?
Arrogance, disrespectfulness, flattery.
What do you dislike about your job?
People often try to explain how to build a clock when all you want to know is what time it is.
If you could change anything about yourself what would it be?
I need to be more relaxed, and not so impatient.
When are you not at your best?
Very early in the morning.
What is the most fun you have had in the last year that has nothing to do with the car business?
Christmas in Geneva with my extended family.
What companies do you admire outside the car business?
I greatly admire General Electric. Closer to home, I really like the Mondragon Cooperative, which is a group of small tooling companies we work with in Spain's Basque country. They've reached extremely high levels of efficiency by using a unique cooperative management approach in which the employees run the company.
What kind of vacations do you like?
I like hiking in the Alps, especially near the Lac d'Embrun.
What's your favorite restaurant? What makes it so great?
A rotating, panoramic restaurant atop a building in Santiago, Chile, called El Giratorio, where they have tremendous seafood.
Where would you really like to live and why?
Rome. For the global atmosphere, the sun, the combination of ancient and modern, and the fact that you can walk everywhere.
What CDs are in your car now?
The Police. The Rolling Stones. Yes. An Argentine group, Soda Stereo. Eminem. Alanis Morissette. It's actually an MP3 player, so I have hundreds of CDs, most of which I steal from my son.
What's your greatest regret?
Not having lived in other countries with my family when my children were younger.
Which talent would you most like to have?
To play music, but my children have this talent, so that makes up for it.
What is your current state of mind?
Open. The crisis will present us with new opportunities. We have to be ready to catch them.
Which word or phrase do you overuse?
You should organize more benchmarking activities.
What is the biggest challenge facing the auto industry?
We have to reinvent the business model to prepare for the post-crisis period. The electric vehicle will be a big part of that, because it will bring technological breakthroughs, but also because it will force us to rethink the whole business model.
Lawrence J. Speer