A few months back I noted that the French government was interfering in the car industry by demanding French plants stay open as a condition of their bailout of Renault. Well, things are getting even more….well….French. New York times (via Reuters) reports that French President Nicolas Sarkozy has summoned Renault and Nissan CEO, Carlos Ghosn for a cosy chat. Actually, “grilling” might be better way of putting it. The invitation has come about after reports surfaced that Renault might be producing its new Clio in Turkey, rather than France. This could be considered state bullying, but the French State is a 15% shareholder in Renault. French Industry minister, Christian Estrosi made absolutely no effort to cover this coercion.
“I want to say very clearly … that we would not be well disposed towards a decision to have the Clio 4 mainly produced in Turkey. Decisions will come from the meeting that meet the choices that the president of the republic, as a shareholder of the Renault group, will impose upon them,” Estrosi said. At an earlier news conference, Christian Estrosi said that Patrick Pelata, Renault’s Chief Operating Officer, had pledged not to cut jobs at their plant in Flins, where the current Clio is made.
The whole situation fills ones head with questions. Why would Renault say they are looking to move production abroad and not cut jobs at the current factory? Will the EU tear France a new one? Will the inefficiencies of Renault permeate into Nissan? And how long before America’s state-owned automakers start feeling the heavy hand of the state on their shoulders? Oh right.