Electric vehicles: Volkswagen leads the race, it's time to get in

The last week of April 2021 confirmed that in Germany as in France, the transition to electric vehicles is clearly accelerating. In Germany, it is wanted and led by VW. In France, the prevarications that VW has tried to banish from the public debate persist. However, week after week, the last reticence is being lifted and the race towards a massive switch to battery electric vehicles (BEVs) seems to be on. Such a development is an opportunity for French industry that there is still time to seize, since most of the capacity has yet to be installed. The first bricks have been laid. The industrial edifice remains to be assembled.
 One week after the announcement by the European Parliament and the European Council of stricter CO2 targets for 2030, the very clear acceleration in the pace of the transition required of the automotive industry is being emphasised on both sides of the Rhine, but is not necessarily welcomed in the same way.
 
To understand this, we can compare what was said and decided at the meeting of the Comité Stratégique de Filière in Bercy on Monday 26 April and what we heard at the "Way To Zero" Convention organised by the Volkswagen group on Thursday 29.
 
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Renault's raison d'être: nebulous wording and sincere commitment

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Renault's managers honestly believe that the company, its teams and its past history fit easily into a project which, in accordance with the Pacte law, they call raison d'être and had approved last week by the Board of Directors.  By giving this "raison d'être" a somewhat nebulous formulation, they did not contribute to making this vote play the mobilising role that they hoped it would. Fortunately, the major principles were already being translated into concrete terms and this gives some reasons to take the commitment seriously.

 The Renault press release which reports on what was agreed at last week's General Meeting of Shareholders is surprising. The text begins with the following lines.   read more

Carlos Tavares or when the counter-revolution joins the revolutionaries

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 Between 2018 and today, we have seen and heard Carlos Tavares change his position on electric vehicles quite radically: all the indications are that the 360° examination of the dossier that he demanded of everyone and that he conducted himself has led him to consider that the dossier has changed in nature in this short space of time. As long as there were doubts about the ability of the battery electric vehicle (BEV) to become the global industry standard, his reservations were worth expressing. Now that this is no longer the case, then there is an urgent need not only to follow the movement but also to try to precede it. read more

The climate-energy law: an opportunity to de-hysterise the debate

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 The debates concerning the automobile, which since the end of March have involved the examination of the 'climate and resilience' bill, are, at first sight, rather caricatural: the majority is in turn criticised for going much too far and/or not going far enough in view of the 'climate emergency'. Nevertheless, as the deadlines that France and Europe have set for themselves become clearer, the positions taken by all sides in the role-playing that had finally taken place are being called into question and the hope of finally seeing the real issues addressed can be born. read more

PSA's industrial choices undermine French foreign trade in cars

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The 2020 foreign trade statistics are available and their analysis is edifying. It largely confirms the de-industrialisation and indicates that, coupled with the choices made by French manufacturers - and in particular by PSA for 2020 - the pandemic has led to a real collapse of French production. The drop in consumption has limited the size of the external deficit, which is nevertheless growing very seriously in terms of vehicles. Moreover, where political announcements suggested that electric or electrified vehicles could be an opportunity for the French site, the statistics cast doubt and indicate the extent to which politicians will have to be proactive in order to bring manufacturers to reverse old choices that were heavily unfavourable to the French site.
 
Well before the health crisis, the whole French car industry knew that the year 2020 would be catastrophic because of the acceleration of the phenomenon of the gap between the vehicles that French manufacturers decide to assemble in France and those that the French buy from them.
 
Thus, if we take the Top 10 of PC sales in France in 2020, we have 589,000 vehicles sold, i.e. 35% of the total.
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Hydrogen plan: the automotive sector remains on the sidelines

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The hydrogen plan is a clear victory for the hydrogen lobby obtained this summer thanks to the in-depth work undertaken over several years to form a common front, structure arguments, and forge alliances and strategic partnerships between companies and industries that are not very familiar with each other. The French equipment manufacturers are part of this rather large club which has been formed and strengthened over the years, but the manufacturers are not really part of it. Given the importance of the LCV dossier for our manufacturers as well as for the French site, this marginality of the automobile in the country's hydrogen plan stands out as an anomaly to be corrected.
 
Announced with great fanfare in the autumn, the "hydrogen plan" is becoming clearer week after week.
The last significant event in this clarification was the grand mass in Albi at the end of February where the ministers concerned (Economy, Industry, Environment and Research) came to enthrone the National Hydrogen Council which was meeting for the first time.
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Renault's 2020 results: already a de Meo effect?

The presentation of Renault's results did not surprise many people: very heavy losses, very strong impact of Nissan's losses, good stock and mix behaviour, cost reduction plan due in 2023 already largely achieved and a clear improvement in H2, all this was expected. Paradoxically, this seems to indicate that, even before Luca de Meo had time to really make his mark on the company, it would be able to pull through. Meo's effect would then be expected by 2022 or 2023 in a context where the company would already be in a better position.
 
The presentation of Renault's financial results - like the presentation of the Renaulution plan a month earlier - was particularly well prepared and was finally not much commented on, as it contained few surprises.  
Like the speech made by Luca de Meo (LDM) and his teams, the accounts and their deterioration seemed to reflect not only the impact of the Covid crisis but also the damaging effects of the past strategy. Likewise, the marked improvement in the second half of the year is supposed to reflect both the initial effects of the recovery plan and the improvement in production and sales conditions throughout the world once the worst of the health crisis is over.
 
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"Lavorare in fabbrica oggi" - A Survey of Working Conditions at FCA-CNH

Date: 
22/01/2021
Emission / Séminaire / Colloque: 

Journée du Gerpisa 259

The presentation of the book Lavorare in fabbrica oggi. Inchiesta sulle condizioni di lavoro in Fca/Cnh, result of a collective research conducted by the Fondazioni Di Vittorio and Sabattini, together with FIOM/CGIL (published by Fondazione Feltrinelli, 2020).
The book revives the practices of a workers’ inquiry to describe the lived experience of assembly work at FCA/CNH today. Based on an extensive survey, it illustrates the main results of a field research conducted on working conditions at FCA-CNH Group plants in Italy. In particular, it analyses the consequences of the change in work organisation following the transformation in the collective bargaining system and the introduction of organisational (Ergo-UAS and WCM) and technological innovations. Ultimately, the book aims to highlight the critical aspects of these changes from the workers’ point of view.

Speaker/s:

  • Daniele Di Nunzio, Fondazione Di Vittorio
  • Matteo Gaddi, Fondazione Claudio Sabattini GGIL
  • Angelo Moro, Cesaer - INRAE

259 Journée du Gerpisa.

 

Nissan is doing less badly

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Nissan - which will close its fiscal year in March 2021 - presented its third quarter results (Oct. Nov. Dec. 2020). Although the results for the first nine months are clearly negative, the improvement over the last quarter is clear. It is essentially due to the effort put on the "quality of sales", particularly in North America. Although not very exciting, this rationalisation effort was necessary and is being carried out quite effectively. This leads one to hope that, for Nissan first and for the Alliance second, the more offensive parts of the plans that the allies have equipped themselves with can quickly take precedence over the very defensive part that still prevails.
 The press conference that accompanied the presentation of Nissan's results for the penultimate quarter (Q3) of the financial year 2020-2021 involved the duo Makoto Uchida (CEO) - Ashwani Gupta (COO) and left the observers with the impression that After two years of crisis (far from the Lebanese vociferations of Carlos Ghosn who this summer mocked the lamentable results of the two companies and the negligence of their leaders), the company is managed and able to keep the commitments it has attached to its Nissan Next plan.
 
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Chip shortage and the need to structure industrial policies

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The shortage of chips which today blocks the activity of very many assembly sites, even though manufacturers need to produce and sell more than ever, was foreseeable. If it is surprising today, it is fundamentally because the confidence placed in the virtues of a globalised market economy has been excessive. It is probably therefore time to correct market failures more actively and to give Strategic States and industrial policies a more active role.
While the automobile industry was still worried at the end of 2020 about its capacity to recover in 2021 a share of the demand volumes lost with the pandemic, the problem that is becoming clearer week by week is not on the demand side but on the side of the capacity of factories to produce the vehicles that the markets are ready to absorb.
In fact, since January, all the major world players have had to announce the shutdown for at least a few days of one or other of their assembly sites for one and the same cause: the shortage of chips which modern vehicles, like most of the goods produced in all industrial sectors, need in order to function and fulfil the specifications assigned to them.
 
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Should the mobility revolution be left to the manufacturers?

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The changes in which the world automobile industry is engaged call for in-depth strategic reflection and investment in new territories. This aspiration to "change of paradigm" is recurrent in the industry and most often leads to modest changes. Toyota today seems a little "alone against all" in examining radical alternatives. The examination of the Woven project is, from this point of view, as interesting as it is worrying.
Car manufacturers are repeatedly convinced that they will have to "change their paradigm" and stop seeing themselves as designer-producer-sellers of cars and reposition themselves as providers of mobility services or even as players in the transformation of cities and territories, of the mobility of goods and people and of the energy production systems that will make them possible. 
 
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The conversions of Carlos Tavares

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To launch Stellantis, which he will manage for at least 5 years, Carlos Tavares gave a very enthusiastic and optimistic speech the week of January 18th, seeking to convince that it will be possible to generate the announced synergies while keeping the two key commitments made: not to eliminate brands and not to close factories. Backed by 2020 results which, like those unveiled by VW the same week, will probably be very flattering, the credibility of this speech is associated with proven technological and industrial levers during Opel's recovery. However, it should not detract from the importance that public support for manufacturers has had in preserving their profitability in the crisis. The post-Covid period may therefore see the question of overcapacities reappear.
The automobile industry does not tire of surprising those who observe it and try not to let themselves be swayed by the successive admitted truths that are the hallmark of its history. Insofar as these changing truths can be formulated by the same tenors with the same assurance, unchanged, one is nevertheless prompted to wonder how what was true yesterday ceases to be true today and what can explain why the same leaders have been able to claim in a few years everything and the opposite of everything.
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Will Luca de Meo make Renault a national champion again?

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Beyond the break with the obsession with volumes that characterised the 2017 plan, which has been emphasised many times, the plan presented by Luca de Meo on Thursday also breaks with a perceptible tendency under Carlos Ghosn to dissociate the fate of Renault from that of the France site. More generally, one perceives in the speech and the course taken a clear, almost patriotic will to link Renault and the country by a form of new contract. Even if contrary signals have to be integrated into the analysis, this course can in the present state of affairs convince observers and stakeholders. It is up to Renault's managers to make it concrete in the months and years to come.
 
We already underlined it when, in September, the 18 pages written by the new boss of Renault and intended for the Trade Unions (TU) had leaked, the proposed turnaround is not reduced to the passage from a logic of volume to a logic of value, it also concerns Renault's relationship with France. Thus, Luca de Meo (LDM) wrote in September: "My vision for France is the following: we must reconnect with our territory. All strong brands are leaders in their own market. For us, it's a question of knowing what value we can bring to the country".
 
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New trends and strategies of Chinese carmakers: the case of Geely

Date: 
22/01/2021
Wenxian ZHANG, Professor & Asian Studies Faculty, College of Liberal Arts, Rollins College
Emission / Séminaire / Colloque: 

Journée du Gerpisa 258

Since 2008, while the global automotive manufacturing has been faltering, the Chinese auto industry has been swiftly transformed into the largest producer in the world. The growth of the Chinese automakers is a close reflection of the Chinese manufacturing economy, and Geely Auto is one such best example. The Seminar is based on the book Geely Drives Out. The Rise of the New Chinese Automaker in the Global landscape, by Hua Wang, Giovanni Balcet and Wenxian Zhang, World Scientific, 2021 (forthcoming).

ETUI-ETUC Conference Towards a new socio-ecological contract / Transport shift and re inventing the automobile

Date: 
05/02/2021
Benjamin Denis, Senior policy advisor industriAll Europe
Livia Spera, Acting General Secretary European Transport Workers' Federation
Emission / Séminaire / Colloque: 

TUI-ETUC Conference Towards a new socio-ecological contract 2021

TUI-ETUC Conference
Towards a new socio-ecological contract

February 03, 2021 - February 05, 2021

PANEL 5 Transport shift and re-inventing the automobile

Vidéo / Quel est l’impact du COVID et de la crise économique sur les “nouvelles mobilités”?

Date: 
04/12/2020
Pierre Lannoy, ULB
Emission / Séminaire / Colloque: 

Journée du Gerpisa 257

La crise sanitaire semble avoir mis à mal des phénomènes qui battaient déjà de l'aile auparavant, ou qui connaissaient en tout cas beaucoup de difficultés à se developper, c’est-à-dire l'autopartage et le covoiturage. En plus, la crise économique va sans doute amplifier les inégalités d’accès à la mobilité entre ménages et peut-être aussi les contradictions du “nouveau paradigme" des mobilités vertes et partagées.

Pour commencer à cerner les contours de ces crises en cours et à venir et leur traduction dans la mobilité des ménages, Pierre Lannoy (ULB-METICES) et Yoan Demoli (UVSQ-PRINTEMPS), co-auteurs du repère sur "La sociologie de l'automobile" (2019), mettent en perspective les résultats du projet CONDUIRE (Construire des mobilités durables, inclusives et responsables) financé par l'Ademe (2018-2020) par rapport au contexte nouveau et très incertain du Covid-19.

Leurs presentations sont discutées par Bernard Jullien (Bordeaux IV), co-auteur du rapport Pipame sur "Usages novateurs et nouvelles mobilités" (2016).

Durée: 2H30

Michelin, de-industrialisation and re-industrialisation: should the interests of consumers continue to take precedence over those of employees?

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The Michelin case is emblematic of a dynamic that we were told would cease in the "next world" that is supposed to come after the great crisis we are living through. It's obviously the opposite that happens from month to month. To understand it, we have to get out of the incantation to take the measure of the scale of the revolution to be operated so that the discourse on re-industrialisation emerges from the purely incantatory status in which those who want to keep the baby and the bath water maintain it.
 
During the July reshuffle, commenting on the great Bercy, which Bruno Le Maire seemed to have obtained when he left Darmanin for Place Beauvau, Les Echos emphasised the emphasis that the government intended to place on "reindustrialisation", relying in particular on the reduction of production taxes demanded loudly and clearly by the Medef for this reason. In the same way, at the time of the presentation of the "recovery plan" of September, Le Point had the headline, respectful of the government communication, "Bruno Le Maire bets on the rebirth of industry".
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At what price can the synergy promises of Stellantis be fulfilled?

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 M&A stories are a bit like love stories, they are much more beautiful and easy to tell before they happen. The sequel lasts longer, takes place farther away from view, keeps some promises and leads to forgetting others. Thus, in the wedding basket of groom Stellantis, there is, we are assured, 5 billion euros a year of synergy that constitutes the fundamental justification for the union. As soon as one worries about how these billions will be found, history inevitably changes its nature. The pink novel is a little less so. We are there as early as 2021, and the following ones have little chance of allowing us to rediscover the romance that was only sung to us until yesterday.

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