Tribune. The Renault crisis comes from afar. It was above all the failure of a model that wanted to make the Renault-Nissan alliance the world’s leading car manufacturer. The madness of the grandeur of the old management deprived the company of an industrial strategy. Result: overcapacity of production, relocation in favor of low-cost countries, imbalance in favor of Nissan and absence of long-term vision. Despite the evidence, the French state has let it go. With 15% of the shares, he could have opposed it.
The group’s current priority is now solely financial. This is what leads Renault management to seek to lower production costs in the short term. For that, the answer is obvious: close industrial sites, relocate and cut the workforce. In other words, make employees pay for management errors. With the dream excuse of the Covid-19 crisis.
The plan presented by management aims to save 2 billion euros. This is precisely the amount Renault paid to its shareholders over the years 2018 and 2019. Spot the error. To find these two billion, Renault will cut 4,600 jobs in France and reduce the activity of several sites. The Choisy-le-Roi factory would be permanently eliminated.
4,600 direct jobs cut, to which will be added the jobs of subcontracting companies, often forgotten in times of crisis. Yet the state has put its hand in the pocket. The government has announced no less than 5 billion euros in guaranteed loans, demanding meager compensation. In other words: the state signs a huge check and Renault cashes. By forgetting the jobs.
Rise in the climatic range
Rebuilding the automotive sector goes through a mandatory step: recognizing that the model of the private car powered by a heat engine is not a solution for the future. Artificialisation of land with the construction of new roads, grabbing of public space for the benefit of the car, accidents, etc. Beyond these aspects, the transport sector is responsible for 31% of greenhouse gas emissions – a figure that has been increasing steadily in recent decades. Road transport accounts for 72% of this total.
Therefore, it is urgent to review the type of vehicles and more broadly the mobility models. With their know-how, Renault employees can be at the forefront of this paradigm shift. Design lighter and more compact vehicles to consume less. Fewer superfluous gadgets too, like on-board computers, to reduce the use of materials. Low tech – as opposed to high tech – makes it possible to develop reliable, robust technologies and techniques that consume very little raw materials.
As an immediate counterpart to the State loan, Renault can already be asked to stop producing cars beyond a certain displacement or a certain mass, with the exception of commercial vehicles. In 1945, the French state launched the Pons plan, a plan for automobile production. What was done after the war can be done today, with the ecological imperative in addition.
Industrial conversion and relocation
The Covid-19 crisis prompted calls for the relocation of strategic industries, including from Emmanuel Macron. However, the closure of the Choisy-le-Roi site would initiate a de-industrialization movement in Ile-de-France. However, the factory is presented as “a model of circular economy”, having saved more than 70% of raw material. Specialized and pioneer in the reconditioning of engine parts, the site contributes to extending the lifespan of vehicles, by offering a coherent circular economy model that relies on a specialized workforce, with high added value, and therefore cannot be relocated.
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This is obviously not the strategy chosen by Renault, which is based on a segmentation of activities linked to the circular economy within the group, and for which all the sites are interchangeable. The managers’ argument is that Choisy’s activity can be transferred to Flins. However, what founds the richness of the Choisy site is its employees and an activity that is anchored in a rise in industrial skills spanning seventy years. In addition, Flins is located 60 km from Choisy, which would have a significant impact on the mobility of employees, who for the most part have settled in the area.
Against an above-ground strategy, the Choisy site is full of opportunities. It is part of a dynamic fabric in terms of research and development (Materielpole cluster, research on materials, Water-Media-Soil cluster), and activities with which it would be possible to establish synergies. Renault could draw on these skills to diversify its activities towards other aspects of the circular economy, such as eco-design and industrial ecology (pooling of energy and material flows within a territory).
The brakes on this type of approach are less economic than political and stem from the maintenance of a logic of competition rather than a logic of territorial development. Conversely, the reorientation of Renault according to the principles of ecological planning could be the symbol of a new economy responding to social and ecological interests.
Leïla Chaibi, MEP, member of the Transport and Tourism Committee, Julie Garnier, national speaker of rebellious France, Kevin Kijko, co-host of the rebellious France transport booklet, Emilie Marche, co-host of the rebellious France transport booklet, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes regional advisor, Mathilde Panot, deputy of Val-de-Marne, vice-president of the parliamentary group France rebellious in the National Assembly, Georges Trebaol, Renault employee, Sonia Veyssière, co-host of the La France Insoumise waste and circular economy booklet.