Ghosn awaits trial in Japan, accused of financial wrongdoing,
Tavares is the auto exec who can do no wrong.
‘I learnt business focus from Carlos,’ Tavares says. He left
in 2013, and took the top job at Peugeot in 2014. At the time,
Peugeot was the sick man of European car makers and close to
bankruptcy. The year before the affable Lisboan joined, PSA lost
€5 billion (£4.45 billion). A year after Tavares’ arrival, Peugeot
was profitable. Last year it made €5.6 billion (£5 billion), and had
record revenue, sales and profits. ‘Five years on, we are now on
the podium of all car makers when it comes to profitability,’ he
notes with satisfaction, if not complacency.
Tavares turned around Peugeot with a ‘much sharper busi-
ness focus, being more demanding of management and staff
- we had to push harder – and more external benchmarking.’
The one-time sick man of Europe also bought the perenni-
ally unprofitable Opel-Vauxhall, increasing PSA’s size by 35 per
cent. A battling company buying a failing company is not advice
you’ll find in too many business books.
Opel-Vauxhall had been losing money for 20 years. Under
PSA ownership, it turned a profit within 18 months. ‘We
reduced fixed costs and variable costs because of economies of
scale, and increased our pricing. But a bigger company is only a
better and more efficient company if you manage your business
better. It’s all about execution.’
here’s a worrying trend in the motor business to
appoint ‘non car guys’ to the top jobs. Some analysts
say car guys are too nerdy. Hearts may rule heads.
Forget petrol flowing through your veins; what you
need are dollars flowing through your brain.
They’ll point to the success of Alan Mulally at Ford, an aero-
plane guy from Boeing and self confessed non-petrolhead. Or
the late Sergio Marchionne, an accountant who never worked
in cars until taking the helm of Fiat in 2004.
Well, Mulally and Marchionne were certainly good for Ford
and Fiat. But the case for the ‘car guy’ would cite Carlos Tavares,
the mercurial boss of PSA, the Peugeot-Citroën group. No car
maker has enjoyed a more spectacular recent turnaround than
PSA. Tavares is surely the ultimate car-guy car boss.
He spends 20 weekends a year motor racing. Currently that
means a 1983 Ralt RT3 in historic Formula 3 and a 1969 Lola T
Mk3B with Chevy V8 power in classic endurance racing. He
does historic rallying (in a Peugeot 104ZS). He’s a regular at the
Nürburgring 24 Hour. ‘Motor racing is a disease,’ he confesses.
He spends his spare time tinkering with cars. He owns a classic
restoration business in his native Portugal. Somehow he also
finds time to run Peugeot, Citroën, DS, Opel and Vauxhall.
He is the one-time protégé at Nissan-Renault of Carlos
Ghosn, and for a long time was Ghosn’s number two. While
‘I learnt business from Ghosn’
Unlike his old boss Carlos Ghosn, PSA chief Carlos Tavares is the industry’s current star player
GroUPe PSA Ceo
20 CArMAGAZINe.Co.UK | OctOber 2019