During his last visit in Tunisia to inaugurate the new show room of his Tunisian representative Aurès, a visit which coincided with the first signs of the international financial crisis in the automobile sector, the MD of the brand with the chevrons met several Tunisian officials, among whom the State Secretary in charge of SMEs. Au cours de sa dernière visite en Tunisie pour inaugurer le nouveau show-room de son concessionnaire Aurès, une visite qui coïncidait avec l’apparition des premiers signes de la crise du secteur automobile, le DG de la marque aux chevrons a rencontré quelques responsables tunisiens, dont le Secrétaire d’Etat chargé des PME. We talked with him about this crisis and its possible impact on the Tunisian industrial sector of the auto components and also the question of compensation of the car constructor purchases by the quotas of each brand in the Tunisian market. The MD of Citroën was not very generous on the content of the discussion, he, however, remained during the interview he gave us, together with our colleague Business News, very positive concerning the Tunisian suppliers’ market share, for his brand. Interview.
Since your appointment at the head of Citroën for two years, how do you evaluate the activity of Citroën in the world and particularly in Tunisia ?
IT is a brand that is developing again, rapidly driven by a complete renewal of its products which are again very modern, technological, daring, products which are up to date since they are ecological. Citroën is the brand of the group which is the leader in terms of CO2 in Europe. I can see a brand which is again becoming healthier with the quality and the brand image of its history and its glorious patrimony, very strong and very positive. Hence, I see important growth and development prospects, that I notice here in Tunisia, with over the two years, since our association with the Group Loukil, « Aurès Automobiles ». I don’t only perceive a development of our sales, with an important investment in the sales sites and the human resources, but also an upgrading in the brand methods. And I think that this combination, the products we provide, the human investment and the physical investment, by our partner, which makes the Citroën brand image in Tunisia change for the public. Exactly as it changed and as it is continuing to change strongly in the rest of the world and in Europe.
Did you mention the issue of compensation with the Tunisian officials that you met during your your visit and if yes in what way?
Concerning compensation, we overviewed the situation to say again that Tunisia is a special country for Citroën, on the one hand because on the commercial level, there is a true dynamism and a growth potential, and on the other hand, because we are associated industrially to the country development through the purchases we are making and which are growing rapidly. Over the past five years, these purchases doubled with the added value which is also very important. This situation suits us, it is not the result of chance or a punctual operation. What I am saying is that I see for me and for us potential for developing the Citroën brand presence in Tunisia.
Could you translate that in figures, and what are your demands ?
I don’t have any demands, I am not here with a book of recommendations, and certainly not a book of public recommendations to give. My expectations consist in seeing the sales of the Citroën brand develop, now that we have overhauled our trade system, now that we have an importer who is committed with his teams and who proved their credibility and their capacity.
And by how much would you be ready to increase your purchases from Tunisia?
Purchases are increasing, especially those of PSA. These purchases increased strongly and even doubled. In 2008, mainly in September, they have an upward trend. And this is really the sign of credibility for our commitment.
There is Citroën, but there is also Peugeot. And the quotas are different
I don’t want to get in the details of the quotas, of their distribution. I think that the most important message and this is what I conveyed to the State Secretary, is a message of confidence, satisfaction with our brand in the country, a message of commitment in the country and a hope to be together in growth.
The brand announced a technical disruption in its production. Could we have an idea about the impact, be it of conjecture on your suppliers in Tunisia ?
These changes affect all the automobile market I Europe and in the world which is going through troubles. The production level of our activity will decrease. Hence, it would be a lie and no one would believe it to say that 2009 will increase compared to 2008. It will not be so. All the chain of the Tunisian producers and equipment manufacturers will be affected, and are already affected, there is no doubt about it. Beyond everything, What I am saying is that the place of the Tunisian suppliers and equipment manufacturers will be preserved, in proportion. All the chain will decrease, this is logical and this is what will happen.
Why not take the advantage of the notoriety of a Tunisian Group, one of the largest groups, to build a unit, like Renault in Morocco?
Because today, we do not have projects of increasing capacity, because we do not have these perspectives. We have a good production system for the market that we supply correctly, and we do not have today needs for capacities that would call such a project.
In this crisis context, can we expect a decrease in the car prices in general ?
Generally, car costs are increasing, the raw material costs increased drastically in recent months, and we said that we will increase prices in 2009 compared to 2008. We are absolutely obliged to preserve a minimum profitability capacity over our activities.