In these extraordinary times, we have reached out to parts of the global auto industry for perspectives on current challenges and a take on prospects for 2021. In particular, we wanted to get a range of perspectives and viewpoints. In this second of a series we will publish this month, we hear from Jacques Aschenbroich, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Valeo.
j-a: 2020 was a pretty memorable year for everyone and for all sorts of reasons. In your business, what stand out as the biggest challenges you faced this year?
JA: Our top priority throughout the health crisis has always been to protect our employees’ health. We developed a health protocol, which was introduced first in China in February and then deployed across all our plants, research centres and head offices worldwide. These measures have been maintained since the start of the crisis – we know the only way to be effective is to apply the same protocol everywhere, at the same time and to the same standard – and there have been no clusters at our plants. By consistently and rigorously applying the strict health protocol, we have also been able to continue our operations, which has – of course – been our second priority.
j-a: What did you learn that you did not expect to learn?
JA: There were lots of concerns about our industry: would we be able to reactivate such a complex supply chain? The answer is yes.
Companies have worked extremely hard and effectively to absorb the shocks and ensure the industry didn’t come to a standstill. At Valeo, we closed and then reopened 154 (out of 189) plants worldwide, without any disruption to our supply chain, which has proven to be incredibly resilient. It was completely unprecedented.
In the short-term, the crisis has shown the need for the company to be able to adapt quickly. The challenge for the longer-term is to stay the course to ensure business continuity and secure our future. In both cases, communication has been essential for keeping in contact with our teams, reassuring and mobilising them and, above all, showing them the way forward
j-a: And as we come to the end of the year and looking back on it, can you summarise how you feel?
JA: I feel pride. Across the world, Valeo employees have shown exceptional commitment and professionalism throughout the crisis.
Large companies have shown that, when the call comes, they can work together. A joint project involving Schneider, PSA, Valeo and Air Liquide helped to substantially ramp up the production of ventilators, which society needed at the peak of the crisis. Together, we manufactured 10,000 ventilators in 50 days. It was an extraordinary feat. Each of the four companies contributed their expertise. At Valeo, we can manufacture very large quantities of highly reliable products, while managing the complexities of our supply chain.
j-a: Specifically on prospects for 2021. It’s obviously an unusual time in the context of the uncertainties ahead for all of us, but can you say something about how you are approaching the new year?
JA: All recent surveys reveal the popularity of the individual car, which is seen more than ever to be the safest means of transportation – an assessment that can be found in all countries across the world. In the post-Covid world, the energy transition – which is already a deep-set trend – is going to accelerate, thereby placing CO2 emissions reductions among the key priorities.
The post-Covid outlook validates our strategic choices, which have seen Valeo become the leader in vehicle electrification with a longstanding track record in using our technologies to make mobility cleaner and safer. We are ready.
j-a: Do you have a message for just-auto’s readers?
JA: Which sector stands at the crossroads of so many of the transformations that are having an impact on our daily lives today? Mobility, of course! And the car plays a very specific role.
Also in this series: Interview with Amanda Roble, General Manager, SABIC’s automotive business