Carlos vs. Carlos: Peugeot move turns double-act to rivalry

Mon Mar 3, 2014 2:33pm EST
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By Laurence Frost

PARIS (Reuters) - Whatever the secret of French carmaker Renault's (RENA.PA: Quote) crisis-defying performance, Carlos Tavares has taken it with him to domestic competitor PSA Peugeot Citroen (PEUP.PA: Quote).

An appearance at the Geneva auto show on Tuesday marks Tavares's graduation from former Renault second-in-command and Carlos Ghosn protégé to Peugeot CEO - and Ghosn rival.

Under Brazilian-born Ghosn, who heads the Renault-Nissan alliance, Tavares helped to steer the French side of the partnership unscathed through a deep European slump that almost sank Peugeot.

While Renault was sheltered by its 43.4 percent Nissan (7201.T: Quote) stake and buoyant low-cost car sales, analysts also credit price increases and cost savings that Tavares pushed through and now wants to repeat at Peugeot.

"The fact that I see a certain number of contrasts with my previous experience gives us the ability to (identify) room for improvement," the new Peugeot CEO said on Monday during a panel interview organized by French trade publication 7pm Auto.

Peugeot last month unveiled another multibillion-euro loss for 2013, along with a 3 billion euro ($4.1 billion) rescue deal that will see Chinese partner Dongfeng (0489.HK: Quote) and the French government take significant stakes in the carmaker.

Tavares, 55, rose rapidly through the Renault-Nissan ranks as Ghosn handed him three promotions in four years, culminating in his 2011 appointment as Renault chief operating officer.

"They're both excellent individuals," said Andy Palmer, Nissan executive vice president and chief planning officer. "One of the advantages Carlos Tavares does have is that he's been brought up through the Nissan system."   Continued...

Carlos Tavares, incoming Chief Executive Officer of French carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen, attends a panel with journalists in Paris, March 3, 2014. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann