The never happy – Carlos Tavares and the failure of the electric 2CV

He complains a lot, he decided to make a job of it. Every other week, our professional complainer shares what annoys him. Today is yet another outing from Carlos Tavares.

This is the first chronicle of a grumbler who likes to complain… but who already finds more grumpy than him, in the person of Carlos Tavares. The Stellantis boss does not have his tongue in his pocket and always takes advantage of an interview to give clear-cut opinions, with an outspokenness that denotes among the big bosses.

Favorite criticism of Carlos Tavares: the forced march of the European market towards electricity. He is regularly annoyed by a purely political decision, imposed on manufacturers and customers, taken according to him in a dogmatic way in reaction to Volkswagen’s “Dieselgate”. As early as 2017, the man who was at the head of PSA made a remarkable exit by warning these political decision-makers: there is no question of making the frightened virgins if we discover in a few decades that the carbon footprint of a 100% electric market is not so good than that.

Since then, if the substance of the discourse on the all-electric imposed has not changed, the arguments have evolved. The 2022 vintage was dominated by purchasing power, as the electric vehicle remains expensive. Its prices have even increased in recent months, due to rising material costs (especially for batteries), soaring energy and transport prices.

According to Carlos Tavares, the electric vehicle cannot therefore be purchased by less well-off households. However, what will they buy if we impose electricity in concessions? This leads to the new line of attack, that of the 2023 vintage. These political decisions and the industrial situation of European brands have opened up a boulevard for Chinese brands on the European market.

A problem he partly created

After failed attempts in the heart of the 2000s, Chinese firms are indeed taking advantage of the electrification of the European market to launch themselves here, with aggressive prices. In an interview given a few days ago to the German media Automobile Woche, Carlos Tavares points out that ” Ihe price difference between European and Chinese vehicles is significant,” around 40%, he said. “Unless the current situation changes, mid-range European customers will increasingly turn to Chinese models.”

Already in October, in Le Parisien, he declared that with this massive arrival of Chinese brands “Europe is now under great pressure. We should not be surprised, in the coming years, if European manufacturers continue to reduce their costs very significantly”.

These interviews seem useful to clear customs in advance if Stellantis comes one day to experience a slack, “I warned you huh”. Clearly, if things go wrong for French and European factories, it will be the fault of European politicians and Chinese manufacturers, or even China, because Carlos Tavares suspects that the Chinese automobile industry is subsidized to better invade Europe. It is true that the French State has never come to the aid of PSA’s finances to avoid its bankruptcy…

If Carlos Tavares’ media outings may have seemed interesting at first, they ended up boring the complainer. Because the man has all the same taken part in the creation of a situation which he criticizes. Quickly after his arrival at the head of PSA, he implemented a strategy of profitability rather than volume. As a result, by dint of betting on premium, pushing generalist firms like Peugeot upmarket and raising prices to generate profits, Carlos Tavares has helped to create this hole in the European car market where Chinese brands are engulf.

Carlos Tavares also has good cards in hand, but does he watch his game well before going to complain to the media? In its huge galaxy of brands, Stellantis has two labels to occupy the entry level: Citroën and Fiat. We will put aside the Fiat case, the Stellantis galaxy having finally been founded only two years ago, Carlos Tavares therefore had no influence on what makes up the current range. But Citroen? Isn’t this the ideal popular brand that would hold its own against Chinese firms with a range of “essential” products sold at a fair price?

Carlos Tavares has been heading the firm at the rafters for almost ten years. And it’s been years that it has struggled to find a position, or rather assume the one it should be today. However, a few years ago, it was already said that Carlos Tavares wanted to make Citroën a more accessible brand, but that he would have encountered reluctance on the side of the management of the brand.

ten years wasted

Awareness has nevertheless taken place, because the return to basics is the path that Citroën will take as its Oli concept car announced it in September 2022. This foreshadows a new generation of “anti-superfluous” electric Citroëns. An ad even put the Oli in the company of the 2CV, as if it were its trendy heiress of the 21st century.

Citroën is therefore preparing its response to the Dacia Spring and MG 4. But now, what a waste of time! The promise of the essential Citroën had already been made with the Cactus style study in… 2007. The production version was then lost with a convoluted marketing concept and prices not so well placed.

Certainly, one can speak of the Friend. But it remains a niche machine, limited to 45 km / h and 50 km. Again, the complainer can not help but see that Citroën has not gone to the end of the process. You really need a more versatile version of the Ami, with 80 km/h and 100 km of autonomy, as there will be on the Mobilize Duo. With, Citroën would have really shaken up the small car market.

By playing more of his role as boss, Carlos Tavares was able to save the brand years. When he arrived at the head of PSA, he did not want to do low-cost. But he clearly missed the need to invent the new 2CV, an electric 2CV, with a more aggressive price and attractive running cost. And he didn’t need Chinese competition for that, you just had to look at the history of Citroën… or even look at his career. Anyone who is obsessed with the profitability of a model knows that a Dacia brings in a lot of money despite its low prices: before being the big boss of Stellantis, Tavares was number 2 at Renault, so he knows the ingredients of Dacia’s recipe for success.

A symbol of Citroën’s mistakes, the latter has just been overtaken on the French market by the Romanian, which is also the sales champion on the private channel, the most profitable!


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