Renault CEO de Meo unveils brand-focused reorganization

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PARIS – Renault Group has announced a new corporate structure pegged to four brands rather than geographic regions, in the first move by new CEO Luca de Meo to turn around the struggling automaker.

Alongside Renault, Dacia and Alpine, a fourth business unit will be formed for new mobility, according to a statement Thursday. Top executives will run each operation, with de Meo heading up the flagship Renault brand.

Renault, which took aid in the form of a 5 billion euro ($5.9 billion) state-backed loan from the French government this year, is trying to recover from the coronavirus pandemic while also patching up a strained relationship with its Japanese partner Nissan. Renault reported a record 7.29 billion-euro first-half loss due to the pandemic and losses at Nissan. 

De Meo, who had led Volkswagen’s Spanish brand Seat to record sales, joined Renault in July to try to reboot the French group, which had already embarked on cost cuts and a job-cutting plan.

Renault has already outlined plans to move away from the volume-driven strategy it had once prioritized under longtime former CEO Carlos Ghosn, with more of a focus on profitable models.

The change reflects a switch from “a search for volume to a search for value and profitability,” de Meo said. The revamp will “make it possible to work in a simpler way, more oriented to the markets and customers.”

The brand-focused reorganization will see Denis Le Vot, who heads regions, sales and marketing, also taking over the no-frills Dacia. Cyril Abiteboul, managing director of Renault sport racing, will head up Alpine, while Clotilde Delbos, deputy CEO and CFO, will oversee new mobilities. The company is pushing into car-sharing through its Zity network as well as enjoying success in Europe with its all-electric Zoe car, which has become a best-seller in that segment in some countries.

Under the cost-cutting plan announced earlier this year, the group plans to eliminate about 14,600 jobs worldwide and to lower production capacity by almost a fifth in a bid to cut costs by more than 2 billion euros ($2.4 billion). About 600 million euros of that is forecast for this year.

De Meo, who in a previous role at Fiat had relaunched the Italian automaker’s signature 500 model, has said that the Renault brand in particular had to move away from small, cheaper passenger cars.

“The center of gravity of the Renault brand has to be more upmarket,” he was quoted as saying in an interview this week with France’s Le Point magazine.

De Meo, who told Le Point it was unclear when Renault might return to profit, said he was working with the design team to revamp some models, and that the Alpine could be reimagined beyond its retro style. 

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Saurabh Shukla

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