Autos bosses focus on technology rather than PSA-Opel

Tue Mar 7, 2017 7:22am EST
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By Agnieszka Flak and Andreas Cremer

GENEVA (Reuters) - The auto industry is facing seismic changes with the rise of electric vehicles, automated driving and car sharing set to eclipse even big mergers such as PSA's purchase of Opel, executives at the Geneva auto show said.

Peugeot maker PSA Group (PEUP.PA: Quote) said on Monday it had agreed to buy loss-making Opel from General Motors (GM.N: Quote), creating Europe's second-biggest carmaker behind Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) and sparking speculation of more consolidation.

However, some auto executives gathering in Geneva said the deal was unlikely to alter the landscape on its own, with changing consumer habits and new rivals in Silicon Valley and China all likely to have a much bigger impact on carmakers.

"My feeling is that the industry as a whole and brand positioning will change in the next 10 or 15 years, and that comes in addition to traditional consolidation," said Herbert Diess, head of Volkswagen's (VW) passenger car division.

"We are really in a transitionary phase for the industry. There are new competitors on the horizon like Tesla or Chinese ventures," Diess told reporters, adding that he did not expect a wave of Opel-style mergers.

Volkswagen (VW) is investing billions of euros in electric vehicles, automated driving and new mobility services, in part as it tries to recover from a costly emissions test cheating scandal that has hit demand for diesel vehicles.

The company, which is also cutting costs, is unveiling a fully self-driving concept car at the Geneva show.

Karl Schlicht, head of European sales at Japan's Toyota (7203.T: Quote), also played down the impact of the PSA-Opel deal, which brings together carmakers with a heavy focus on diesel and low-margin fleet vehicles.   Continued...

Carlos Tavares, CEO of PSA Peugeot Citroen, speaks during the 87th International Motor Show at Palexpo in Geneva, Switzerland, March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann