Concern about the diminishing levels of investment in UK car manufacturing has, together with other Brexit uncertainties, made 2019 a particularly introspective year.
It is perhaps constructive then to look at France which has a car market of similar size to the UK’s.
Two groups, Renault and PSA dominate: in October Renault (where the state still owns 15%) fired its managing director Thierry Boloré after a poor half year and the increasing estrangement of its partner Nissan of which Renault holds 43%. The Franco-Japanese alliance has never recovered from the arrest and subsequent dismissal of its architect Carlos Ghosn, who has denied all alleged illegal acts.
In 2014 when Renault Nissan was riding high, PSA was on the verge of bankruptcy, but its turnaround under Carlos Tavares has been startling, characterized by a wave of confidence which saw Sochaux pick up Opel-Vauxhall and promptly make the profits that for decades had eluded former owner GM. Meanwhile after years of indifferently styled cars, Peugeot has rediscovered its flair with cars like the 3008 and 5008.
But neither group is especially committed to ‘made in France.’ By 2020, all B-segment (traditionally the largest part of the French market) petrol/diesel engine Renaults and PSA badged cars will be made outside, amounting to13% of French production.
The Mk 5 Clio will be built in Slovakia and Turkey and Peugeot will shift 2008 assembly, representing 150,000 cars annually from Mulhouse to Vigo in Spain while 208 production, another 100,000 units, moves to Slovakia and Morocco. A-segment manufacture – Twingo, 108, has already left France. Renault’s remaining capacity at Flins will build the electric Zoe upon which the company is staking much of its future.
By contrast the Japanese in the shape of Toyota seem committed to ‘made in France.’ The factory at Valenciennes is set to build the fourth generation Yaris (likely to be 80% hybrids) and a second model on the same platform is planned.
Barely twenty years old, this plant is modern both in terms of infrastructure and work practices. It is also in an area of high unemployment and quite conceivably, Toyota could add other models currently built elsewhere in Europe if it felt it needed to.
We cannot conclude without wishing all our members and motor industry colleagues a happy Christmas and hopefully a prosperous New Year as 2020 drives into view.
We can also offer PRs the perfect antidote to Christmas and getting bored with the break (honestly some do) and ask you to fill out your entry for DrivingDay2020 with WGMW at our updated and dedicated registration website: http://wgdrivingday.com