Sources close to the situation tell Reuters that Carlos Tavares, Carlos Ghosn’s former second in command at Renault, could start running rival PSA Peugeot Citroen as soon as March. Tavares officially joined PSA as CEO-in-waiting on Jan. 1. According to Reuters, Peugeot had previously said only that Tavares would take over sometime this year. Peugeot Chairman Thierry Peugeot told Le Figaro in an interview published over the weekend that the company’s board of directors would soon decide on the official transition date.
“Some observers had thought Tavares could take over by Feb. 19 when Peugeot announces its annual results. That was the plan … but Philippe Varin wants to remain in his post until the Chinese president visits France in March,” said one of the sources. “Given that Varin played an important role in the Dongfeng deal, it is completely possible that the replacement can wait until March.”
The Chinese president, Xi Jinping will make his first state trip to Europe in March, to meet with China’s trading partners after a year of trade tensions with the EU.
Dongfeng, a state-owned Chinese automaker, has agreed to join the French government in taking minority stakes in PSA, and will be investing $4.1 billion in the French automaker. The Peugeot board has agreed in principle to the deal, which would result in the Peugeot family losing control of the company.
Peugeot needs a source of cash to develop new product and stay competitive as sales decline in its core market of Europe. It also wants to expand the relationship with Dongfeng. The two companies currently operate a joint venture assembling cars in China. Dongfeng and PSA have been in discussions to expand their cooperative work to other Asian countries.