Renault’s Algerian plant became a done deal Thursday, with production beginning in mid-2014, which will see the French auto maker become the sole passenger car builder in the North African state.
The fate of PSA and the Algerian people has been intertwined for decades. The group’s Aulnay plant, which is due to close, was originally staffed by immigrants from North Africa, lured by the promise of a better life and secure jobs in France. And while Peugeot sales withered in France, the brand has been traditionally strong in North Africa, with 2011 bringing a 93 percent increase in sales for Peugeot.
But Algeria’s push for a domestic car industry doesn’t seem to include PSA. Arch-rival Renault is due to set up a factory in the country, but PSA has apparently rejected overtures from the French government to take a stake in the ailing car maker.
The establishment of a new manufacturing base in North Africa has fascinated me for the past couple months – though few others seem to really care. The leader in this movement has been Renault, which is setting up plants in Morocco and Algeria to build their popular, low-cost Dacia vehicles in factories where employees earn a fraction of what a French assembly line worker would make.
PSA doesn’t have a low-cost brand of it’s own, so jobs haven’t gone across the Strait of Gibraltar – yet. But the closing of the Aulnay plant, where a massive contingent of North African immigrants (now French citizens) work, is a compelling snapshot of the socioeconomic and racial dynamics of France that happens to intersect with the auto industry.