Bigger isn't necessarily better in the car industry and Philippe Varin, PSA/Peugeot-Citroen's new CEO, seems to have got the message.
Varin told the company's annual shareholder meeting Wednesday that future success would be based around making Europe's second largest carmaker into "a more global enterprise."
Not a bigger company, or one that just sells more cars. But a more international business, better prepared to tap into projected growth in emerging markets such as the BRIC quartet of Brazil, Russia, India and China.
"Markets in the industrialized countries have become particularly difficult, with too much production capacity and aggressive competition," Varin said.
PSA needs to concentrate on "the other half of the planet," which "will continue to see rapid economic development and a growing need for mobility," he said.
Varin was chosen in late March to replace Christian Streiff as PSA CEO and he was making his first public appearance at the annual meeting since he took over Streiff's job on June 2,
The former steel company boss may be a newcomer to the car industry, but his instincts and support staff are obviously steering him in the right direction.
PSA has traditionally been strong in Europe, which represented about two-thirds of its 3.2 million sales in 2008, but far less certain of its strategy in global markets such as Brazil, China or Russia.
Given that Wednesday was only Varin's second day on the job, it should come as no surprise that PSA's new boss chose not to reveal too much of his future strategy.
It was noteworthy, however, that he openly disagreed with Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne's "bigger is better" vision for the future of the industry.
Marchionne told Automotive News Europe in late 2008 that auto industry consolidation would force carmakers to produce and sell 5.5 million to 6 million units annually to survive. Fiat has since acquired a controlling stake in Chrysler and is pursuing other acquisitions or tie-ups to reach this level.
In a thinly veiled slap at Marchionne, Varin said, "there is no magic number" carmakers must reach to remain viable, specifically casting doubt on the 5.5 million to 6 million figure.
"Our objective is strong growth," Varin said, adding that PSA would "seize all opportunities" to reach this goal.
Varin confirmed that PSA plans to boost sales in Brazil and China, where the Peugeot and Citroen brands are already established, and said Russia, where the French carmaker is building a new factory with Japan's Mitsubishi, would also be a future battleground.
He also confirmed that PSA is ready to participate in continuing consolidation of the global automotive industry if need be.
"If we can't become more global more quickly through organic growth alone, we won't hesitate to seize opportunities for external growth and partnerships," Varin said.
Varin, 56, is an experienced hand at industry consolidation, having overseen the fusion of steel giant Corus with India's Tata Steel in 2007.
While he gave no specific indications of future partnership plans or alliance targets, the answers may be in areas left out of his presentation.
There was nothing said about India, where PSA was studying a relaunch of local production before the crisis hit. The French carmaker desperately needs a local partner on the sub-continent, if it plans to achieve high-volume sales.
Similarly, there was no mention of North America, where PSA has been absent since the early 1990s. Press reports have put PSA among the handful of automakers showing interest in buying the Saturn brand from General Motors, as a quick way of re-entering the US market.
Varin appears to have the full support of the Peugeot family, which controls 30 percent of PSA's shares and nearly 45 percent of voting rights, in his bid to "go global."
The next move is his.