The automotive industry is entering a new era. And he does it at full speed. Neither more nor less than that printed by the green and digital revolutions. The car of a future that is not so distant is taking shape: it will not emit carbon dioxide, its value will be concentrated in its technological offer and it will necessarily be safer. Renault is already heading down that road with the debut this week in Paris of its new Scénic Vision, with which the French brand is betting on hydrogen to reach its decarbonization goals. After the sale of all its assets in Russia, the French group wants to focus on the deployment of its strategic plan, which plans to make the green transformation one of the trump cards that should lead it to more than overcome the share value lost due to the impact of the war in Ukraine.
The CEO of Renault, Luca de Meo, was able to breastfeed at the beginning of the year by rescuing the group from the red numbers and, despite the semiconductor crisis, closing 2021 with a profit of 888 million euros. Only a year earlier, the group had ended with a record loss of 8,000 million. However, 2022 did not start in the best way. The war in Ukraine meant that the company’s holdings fell by more than 40% due to exposure to the Russian market. This week, the group’s board of directors has decided to divest all its assets in Russia for a symbolic price.
De Meo affirms that the decision “was not easy”, especially for its 45,000 workers in this market. However, the sanctions made it impossible to maintain operations. And even if the war ends soon, everything indicates that the West will not lift those punishments so quickly. In any case, the leader of Renault does believe that the company is “extremely undervalued” by the markets. Something that, according to what he says, does not concern him immediately, at least until 2025. But it does concern him in the long term, since he will require financing to face all the transformations underway. For this reason, he says that he has taken on the challenge of turning Renault into a more “attractive” group so that investors also bet on his revolution, baptized as Renaulition.
“We built our strategy on three elements. One is inclusion, another is the environment and the third is safety”, said De Meo in a meeting with journalists on the occasion of the presentation of the new Scénic Vision within the framework of the Parisian ChangeNOW congress, to which EL PAÍS was invited. Sustainability is, without a doubt, the great axis that the company exhibits at the show. The company has set out to reduce CO2 emissions in Europe to zero by 2040 and to do so worldwide by 2050. This all-electric family car is a first leap. According to the company’s Vice President of Design, Gilles Vidal, it incorporates around 70% recycled materials and 95% of the model is recyclable.
In that direction, they work by the piece in the so-called Flins Refactory, near Paris. This center, inaugurated in 1952, gave birth to emblematic models such as the Renault 4, the Renault 5, the Dauphine or the Clio. It now has 2,600 workers who are dedicated to the circular economy within mobility. Among other activities, the factory carries out the reconditioning of used vehicles to reincorporate them into the market, the treatment of batteries to give them a second life, recycling, innovation or systems for using hydrogen, which has become one of the the great bets of the European Union. Renault plans to take that factory model to other countries, including Spain. The Seville plant will house this project at the end of the year.
Another key to transformation lies in technology and, specifically, the software, which the company estimates will account for 60% of the value of automobiles in 2030. For example, it involves deploying systems to reduce accidents, such as automatic braking when there is an obstacle or slowing down depending on the road and the traffic. Or the provision of better guidance systems or more applications on board. This product has little to do with the one that Renault manufactured until a few years ago. “We play a different sport. Football and American football are not played in the same way”, adds Luca de Meo.
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
All this plan that Renault has launched requires exhaustive data management. Breaking them down, studying them and crossing them allows us to get to know the driver as well as the environment better. And there Renault has made the same reflection that – at the request of France and Germany – has been raised in Brussels: only 4% of the data generated in the Western world is in European hands, while 92% is in the cloud from the United States. And that is one of the reasons that has led the group to launch the Software République project, which claims precisely that “European sovereignty” of data. It is an alliance between leading French companies to develop mobility-oriented software. In addition to Renault, there are Atos, Dassault Systemes, Orange, ST or Thales.
De Meo explains that, when he took office in 2020, this platform was considered as a formula to strengthen the company’s relationships with the main companies in the ecosystem and the group’s position in the French business environment. “France is a country whose value chain is very deep: there are defense companies, technology companies… So the opportunity to create a horizontal approach between companies and create a connection was obvious,” says De Meo. The chief executive of the French group does not rule out now giving entry to other European groups to integrate companies from sectors such as energy.
The markets are now speculating on the possibility that Renault could end up shedding 43.5% of the shares it has in the Japanese manufacturer Nissan. Luca De Meo, the general director of the diamond brand, dismissed any rumors to the press this week: there will be no sale of that stake, nor will the merger that the markets have advocated at times take place. “That issue is no longer on the table. I think it doesn’t make sense anymore,” De Meo added. The chief executive of the French group has proposed to reduce tensions between the two groups and rebuild the alliance. And focus on what brings profitability to the group. “My priority is to make a competitive company, probably the number one,” he stressed.