The man who could bring France's largest automaker back to the U.S. after an absence of more than 25 years is a Portuguese executive with high-performance gasoline running in his veins.
PSA Group CEO Carlos Tavares, 58, is an avid racecar driver who on weekends alternates classic car races with one-make competitions reserved for Peugeot vehicles -- one of PSA's three brands.
In April, Tavares announced PSA's renewed plans for the U.S., a market he knows from a stint as head of Nissan North America from 2009 to 2011. This continues Tavares' dramatic turnaround of PSA, which he has restored to profitability and pushed beyond its traditional European focus to global markets. Earlier this year, Tavares revealed plans to re-enter India and Iran, as well.
The plan for U.S. entry perfectly epitomizes Tavares' style:
- First, being pragmatic. "The U.S. market is too big to ignore," he told Automotive News Europe.
- Second, being humble. "We have first to properly understand the need of the U.S. consumer."
- Third, planning for the long term. "We will take a step-by-step approach."
The first phase could begin next year, with PSA simply offering mobility services. The final step, which could happen in about a decade, calls for PSA to sell, lease or share vehicles from one of its three brands -- Citroen, Peugeot and its new DS luxury brand.
Ironically, Tavares could see the final step in PSA's return to the U.S. from his retirement. He will turn 65 -- the age when executives normally retire in Europe -- in 2023.
Tavares became CEO of PSA on March 31, 2014, after spending 32 years at Renault and Nissan.
After leading Nissan's North American operations, he returned to France to become COO at Renault, a position that made him No. 2 below CEO Carlos Ghosn.
Tavares stepped down as Renault COO on Aug. 29, 2013, two weeks after saying in an interview to Bloomberg that he wanted to become CEO at an automaker.
His point was simple: being just four years younger than Ghosn, the "other" Carlos needed another automaker to fulfill his dream of becoming his own boss. And he quickly found it, without even having to move out of Paris.
By January 2014, he had joined archrival PSA.
PSA called Tavares to the helm of the company after the founding Peugeot family had to relinquish control in a 2014 bailout, with the French state and Chinese automaker Dongfeng Motor taking stakes in the struggling automaker.
The Peugeot family -- which founded the company in 1810 beginning with cast iron, adding bicycles in 1886 and finally cars in 1891 -- now has a 14 percent stake of PSA, the same size as the French state and Dongfeng holdings.