Sebastien Jacquet, 44
Senior VP vehicle programs, PSA Group
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
I first worked as a body-in-white validation engineer at PSA Group. I liked the attractiveness of the product and the fact that the industry was global with opportunities to work internationally.
Born: Nice, France
Languages: French, English, Spanish, German, Chinese
Education: Global Executive MBA, INSEAD, Singapore; master’s degree in engineering, UCLA, Los Angeles, California, USA; bachelor’s degrees in engineering from Ecole des Ponts ParisTech and Ecole Polytechnique, Paris, France
Your greatest achievement?
In 2010, I was asked to help establish a joint venture between Changan Automobile and PSA based in Shenzhen, China. I had to recruit a team of 600 local engineers to build the plant and r&d center to start production within two years. My main challenge was to train these new recruits while also making sure they executed key project tasks. Thanks to an ambitious training plan, manpower support from headquarters dropped from 100 people during the first year to 15 people at the end of the second year and the first car was launched on time.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
Oddly enough, my biggest failure also led to my greatest achievement. After three years of intense activities on the industrial side of the joint venture between Changan and PSA, the commercial launch of the first vehicle fell short. Our plant had too much capacity and I had to downsize both the plant and the engineering team that I worked so hard to establish. After this experience I decided to pursue a Global Executive MBA at INSEAD. I did this to increase my business awareness to better challenge the inputs given by the sales and marketing teams.
What is your current challenge at work?
In 2017, I was asked to lead a vehicle program replacing all compact sedans globally for our four brands, Peugeot, Citroen, DS and Opel. This includes seven vehicles and nine industrial launches in five different plants in Europe and China. My challenge is to keep these vehicles compliant with global standards, attractive and affordable.
2011-2016: Vice president engineering and quality, executive committee member, Changan PSA, Shenzhen, China
2010-2011: Industrial design director, PSA, Paris, France
2007-2010: Quality manager, Dongfeng Peugeot Citroen, Wuhan, China
2000-2007: Vehicle development engineer and manager, PSA, Paris, France and Madrid, Spain
What about the auto industry surprises you?
It constantly surprises me how crucial it is to have a good chemistry between all the vehicle development team members. Keeping everybody onboard with a good level of engagement is a real human management challenge but mandatory for product success.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
That I should accept a job in China. My first assignment in China was in 2007. At that time China’s auto market was beginning to take off. It gave me a chance to grow professionally because I had a high level of autonomy in this job.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
If you are given the opportunity, accept an assignment that is far away from headquarters. You will learn to work more independently and grow much faster than if you stay close to the company’s main office.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
At some point I would like to lead a business unit and control both the cash-in and cash-out levers that lead to profitability.
What do you do to relax?
I run. It helps me to clear my mind.
What is your pet peeve?
I don’t like average. If you are going to do something, do it well or don’t do it at all.
What was your first car?
A used Renault Super 5.
I drive a DS7 from PSA Group premium brand DS Automobiles. The performance of connected pilot shows me that autonomous driving is just around the corner.
If you were a car, which one would you be?
I would be an Aston Martin DB5 because even five decades after it first hit the market it’s still a modern-looking car.