Renault could close factories in France

“We have no taboos, and we don’t exclude anything.” The words of Clotilde Delbos, the acting general manager of Renault, – while waiting for the new general manager, Luca de Meo, to take up her duties on July 1 – attacked during the presentation of the financial results of Renault, this Friday, February 14, leave no room for doubt. The group is planning to close factories abroad, and even in France.

The news, it is true, is not good. The French manufacturer saw its volumes fall by 3.4% last year, to 3.75 million vehicles, accompanied by a net loss of 141 million euros. A first for ten years. “2019 has been a difficult year for Renault, admits the former collaborator of Carlos Ghosn to the position of financial director. We are not satisfied with the results. ” Revenues of 55.5 billion euros were down 3.3% compared to the previous year.

His partner Nissan is in bad shape

The end of the tunnel is unfortunately not for tomorrow. “For 2020, in a still declining global market, adds the former CFO, we anticipate a further deterioration in our operational profitability.” Renault clearly intends to rely on the partner Nissan, in which it holds 43%, to save money. After months of crisis linked to the arrest of Carlos Ghosn in Japan, the two groups are now looking to finally really share some of their activities.

Except that … The manufacturer of Yokohama announced this Thursday a drop in sales of 8.4% in 2019, to 5.18 million vehicles. Nissan is now one of the worst students in the automotive industry. Difficult under these conditions to imagine that the Japanese firm could come to the aid of its French partner, as was the case in the 2000s.

French sites slow down

Which Renault sites in France could be forced to shut down? “None of the five assembly plants, or the three mechanical plants (Editor’s note: who manufacture separate components, such as engines, gearboxes or chassis) is not spared from risk, ”indignant Fabien Gache. And the CGT central union delegate to train the workshops where, for lack of work, entire assembly lines are operating in slow motion, when they have not been completely eliminated: Flins (Yvelines), where the Nissan Micra is produced, which sells poorly, and Zoe, which makes small volumes. Douai (North), from where the Talisman, Space and Scenic come out. So many models that have not attracted customers for a long time, and whose production will soon be stopped.

“The deindustrialisation of Renault in France unfortunately does not date from yesterday, explains Jean-Pierre Corniou, automotive expert and partner of the consulting firm Sia Partners. It is directly linked to the outsourcing movement, which started in the 2000s, but which has increased further in recent years, even more for Renault than PSA for that matter. ”

La Clio, entirely made abroad

Thus, production of the Clio, one of the best-selling models in France, was entirely transferred from the second half of 2019 abroad, mainly to Turkey and Slovenia. Ditto for the Mégane, Captur and Kadjar, which come out of Spanish factories. “These factories operate at 130% of their capacity, while in France they stagnate at best at 50%,” protests Fabien Gache. In 2004, France still produced 53% of the vehicles it sold on its territory. This share is currently 17%. As a result, by 2021, Renault will no longer manufacture any French vehicle other than a few tens of thousands of electric copies. ”

The state wants to stop the offshoring spiral

The State, shareholder 15.1% of Renault (and 12.7% of PSA via Bpifrance), also intends to regain control over this chapter. “France is the OECD country which has most relocated its industrial production, regretted in Le Parisien – Today in France Bruno Le Maire, the Minister of the Economy, in December 2019. In 2011, we were still the second automotive country in Europe. Today, we have moved to fifth place, with less than 7% in value of European production, against 45% for Germany. ”

PODCAST. Back to the Ghosn case

Bercy says it is ready to support the sector, but it will be “give and take”. So not sure that he sees Clotilde Delbos’ statements with a very good eye.

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