PARIS (Reuters) -- President Nicolas Sarkozy stepped up pressure on Renault on Wednesday, summoning CEO Carlos Ghosn for a meeting over speculation the group could shift production of its popular Clio model to Turkey.
Government spokesman Luc Chatel told reporters the meeting would take place "very soon" and said it was "completely normal" for the state, which holds a 15 percent stake in France's number two carmaker, to make its views clear.
"The government would have no understanding for a measure that consisted of moving abroad production of such a symbolic vehicle for French people as the Clio," he said following a cabinet meeting.
The comments follow similar remarks on Tuesday from Industry Minister Christian Estrosi, who told parliament that "when a French car is destined for the French market, it has to be made in France."
Renault said on Tuesday it has not taken any decision yet on the matter and that it was still reviewing "several scenarios for the Clio" but it said it needed to ensure that the Clio is manufactured as economically as possible.
Protecting French jobs ahead of election
However the prospect of a move to Turkey has angered the government, which is committed to protecting manufacturing jobs in France and which faces regional elections in March.
Renault is now seeking to boost sales in emerging markets such as Turkey and reduce production costs.
The past year was supposed to have been a year of celebrations at Renault, following a much-touted profit and performance enhancement plan by Ghosn. But the credit crisis and steep fall in consumer spending and car sales derailed that prospect.
Financial analysts expect Renault to make a net loss of 2.6 billion euros ($3.8 billion) in 2009 and a small profit of 100 million euros in 2010, with a return to a 1.1 billion profit in 2011.
French daily La Tribune reported last Thursday that to cut costs, "the successor of the current Clio ... may not be manufactured at Flins, in the Paris region, but in Turkey."