Interview with Carlos Tavares (2018)

Interview with Carlos Tavares (2018)
Subscriptions & booklets

D he passionate amateur racing driver Carlos Tavares recently traveled to the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring - and contested the internationally known long-distance classic with an Opel Calibra TJ-R in a private team. The 1998 Opel Calibra bears the designation TJ-R and - compared to most of its competitors - only has a meager 235 hp from a two-liter engine. Tavares could easily have chosen a Peugeot 308 with well over 300 hp. The native Portuguese didn't want that. Probably less for cost reasons than for chance. Long-time translator Andreas Kuhnert has been racing for a long time - also in his spare time. When the two hobby racing drivers met by chance at the appropriate opportunity, he heard about Kuhnert's plans to contest the 24-hour race in the “green hell”. And signed up for the same team.

We were allowed to accompany the manager exclusively during his race and asked him about Opel, PSA and his passion for racing.

Why do you start in a private team and with a - with all due respect - inferior car? You could easily drive in an Opel works team?

Tavares: Quite simply (laughing): Because I'm too slow. I enjoy it and have been my passion for over 30 years - but also a purely private pleasure. I also keep my professional life strictly separate from my private life. I can only advise.

But you could easily afford a cockpit in a better car?

Tavares: Do you think so? As for safety - I have a family - a wife, three daughters and five grandchildren. As for the costs - you can have a lot of fun with such a Calibra VLN and in this category for the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring.

Your rescue program for Opel, it means 'Pace!' What is your vision of Opel?

Tavares: The entire automotive industry is exposed to a Darwinian struggle for existence. You have to move quickly here so as not to fall by the wayside. In addition, we live in a chaotic world: trade barriers come and go, different quotas are decided and introduced. Every vision is influenced by this, even the medium-term and the status quo speaks rather against a sustainable futureAuto industry.

You mean the 'Trump factor' or the introduction of regulations in Brussels or China. But what does that mean for Opel and its future?

Tavares: With Opel, PSA is the second largest car manufacturer in Europe and a manufacturer with the lowest CO2 values. Nevertheless, we still need more momentum to stay ahead in the long term. Our “Push to Pass” program for the Peugeot, Citroën and DS brands includes several detailed objectives in order to technically follow suit and overtake one or the other competitor. I would like to remind you that the PSA Group achieved a very quick turnaround: In the 2017 financial year, we achieved an operating margin of 7.3 percent; compared to a minus margin of 2.5 percent in 2013.

You will be 60 in August - how much longer do you want to remain PSA boss?

Tavares: One more thing. But I am already preparing the company for the fact that one day I will no longer be there. And I see that as my duty. To ensure that my management team propels the group into the future with the right ideas and measures and prepares it for the next generation.

Will your PSA job and that Give up racing at the same time?

Tavares: No way! I hope I can race a lot longer.

You are planning savings by purchasing together and building new Opel models on only two platforms and with only four engine families in the amount of 1.1 billion euros per year from 2020; and by 2026 the potential savings should even increase to 1.7 billion annually. Will you be able to save just under a billion euros in 2018?

Tavares: Even if I knew it today, I shouldn't tell you. Just this much: We are well on our way and are consistently following our plans.

Why should Opel become a kind of e-brand?

Tavares: The emission targets are not only tightening in Europe. We have the right management and the right technology for battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and combustion engines and can create the right products. We are consistently following this path, but we will not lose the focus on the business case. Our plan is: 100 percent of all Opel models will be electrified by 2024; by 2020 we will already have four electrified models on offer, such as the Grandland X Hybrid and the all-electric new Corsa.

Create electrification alone in a group or look for one for partnerships - maybe with a large supplier?

Tavares: We develop most of the components we need ourselves. For theWe have founded a joint venture with the Japanese company Nidec to develop electric motors. The entire group will benefit from this partnership with a world market leader.

What preparations do you make within your platforms for electrification?

Tavares : As you may know, we use two global multi-drive platforms: the CMP (Common Modular Platform) and the EMP2 architecture. These two platforms are shared by all brands. We use the CMP for vehicles up to the compact class; Vehicles up to the D segment are based on the EMP2 platform. We will build e-models or plug-in hybrids on both platforms; however, both platforms can easily be combined with a conventional motor. The platforms allow us to manufacture combustion and electric vehicles on one production line. This gives us full flexibility.

Does that mean that all of your brands - and not just Opel - will have an E or PHEV variant in each model series?

Tavares: We haven't said that before. But every model series of the PSA Group should have such an offer by 2025 at the latest.

Would theoretically also be possible beforehand, right?

Tavares: Yes, of course, of course. But that doesn't say anything about whether it also makes sense from the customer's point of view.

What order of magnitude do you see in sales of electric vehicles?

Tavares: We expect that by 2020 around 50 percent of our vehicles will be equipped with an electric drive. By 2023 it should then be 80 percent. Our R & D center in Rüsselsheim is also working on long-term fuel cell technology for the entire PSA brand family.

And then you are probably also planning to use the Brands create a global production network - along the lines of Volkswagen, for example. Then you could also produce Peugeot or Citroën models in the German Opel plants, right?

Tavares: We'll do that: We build using the cross-manufacturing principle in Spanish Zaragossa plant for Opel and Citroën, the B-SUVs and in the Vigo plant we manufacture LCVs for Opel, Peugeot and Citroën. In our French plant in Sochaux we produce C-SUVs for Opel and Peugeot. These are good examples of our future possibilities in our European plant network.

The utilization of the Opel plants in Germany is quite low. In your opinion, what is the ideal capacity utilization for a plant?

Tavares: In full three-shift operation, one speaks of 'overheating'; the logistics are not optimal, nor are the costs, the sickness rates, and so on. Theso is not necessarily worth striving for. Therefore it is better to improve the two-shift operation of a plant.

Do you only want to enter the American market with Opel or with all brands?

Tavares: I see good growth opportunities for our brand portfolio in the USA, but we have not yet made a decision. We are proceeding step by step as part of a 10-year plan: We have just started the return to the North American market with the small startup “Free2Move” and later, in a second step, we want to sell cars there again.

Are you already planning a plant in the USA?

Tavares: That is still too early now. We need to solve other problems and grow the business first before moving on to these plans. Besides, we don't need a work straight away; we could also start car production in the USA as part of local supplies.

Why don't you speak to Sergio Marchionne and team up with Fiat Chrysler in the USA?

Tavares: I think Sergio Marchionne has already given up on this idea as far as I know.

But he's a impulsive Italian and may change his mind. Aren't you talking to him?

Tavares: We are always open to good ideas - regardless of who they are from.

Can you manage to create a global brand from Opel within the“ Pace! ”Plan?

Tavares: The Opel management and Opel employees keep their own future in place their hands, as they have all the freedom. I think you shouldn't put shackles on great engineers, rather you have to free them from them so that they can develop great products.

How did you like 'the green hell' - Was the race challenging enough?

Tavares: Oh yes, the track is quite demanding. It has its reputation completely right.

What did you find the most difficult - the many bends, the drive at night or the many lapses by competitors?

Tavares: The most difficult thing is the different grip on the track. That varies a lot with the rapidly changing weather conditions of sun and 23 degrees Celsius on day 1 and rain, fog and only 11 degrees on day 2. You don't actually have to learn the racetrack by heart, but the many different road surface properties.

What will you take from this race to the next meeting?

What racing always teaches you: accept the situation, adapt and never give up. But also that it's not so bad to make a mistake. If you do better afterwards.And: In a race, like in a company, you always need a team; because difficult tasks can only be solved in a team.


Leave a reply

Name *