New European automotive supplier body CLEPA CEO Jean-Marc Gales took up his position in Brussels last week. Formerly PSA Peugeot Citroen board member, Gales has spent most of his career in the auto business, mainly with Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, General Motors and BMW. He talked to Simon Warburton in the Belgian capital about his new role.
j-a: How will the transition from OEM to the supplier side present you with different challenges?
J-M G: “I have worked for a supplier and I have never really emphaised that – it was BMW-Rolls-Royce where I was head of planning and strategy…so I learned fairly early and really enjoyed [it]. It gives me an insight into how smaller companies function.
“The challenge is 90% the same and 10% different – the role of the supplier is just much bigger than is normally seen – the OEMS get more visibility.”
j-a: What messages will you be emphasising to highlight the role of automotive suppliers?
J-M G: “More than half of all research and development is invested by the supplier industry in the automotive business. The real core development work for many components is done by the suppliers – 75% of all the value-added comes from the supplier industry.
“We are working on CO2 emisions, we are keeping the European industry competitive, that comes with high value, premium components and innovation. Otherwise, Europe is not a low-cost region. I really believe and I will fight for it, that [Europe] will continue to lead innovation world wide.
“The issue on my agenda is certainly the Cars 21 project, which is of the highest impact. It looks into what is possible after 2020 and what we need to do to ensure competitiveness for the long run.
“If we do not change things fundamentally, we are going to be left behind. We need to be aware we should set ourselves tough targets. In CO2, our clear belief [is] 95g is feasible but ambitious.”
j-a: How do you see future recruitment for engineers in Europe compared to emerging markets?
J-M G: “There is something like 140,000 engineers coming out of Europe every year and in China, one million engineers. Just the sheer quantity will give them a competitive edge.
“I see premium cars in very high demand worldwide and they are looking…to hire people. That is why we are looking for engineers.”
j-a: How will transportation issues present CLEPA members with new challenges in the years ahead?
J-M G: “The core of growth in Europe is solving the transportation issue. We need an intelligent combination of different kinds of transport. There is car sharing of course, there has always been short and long-term leasing and combinations between trains, buses and metro, but a closed system that encompasses all those kinds of transport, to make more of our free time, does not yet exist. This is a real challenge.”
j-a: In your new role, how do you view the industrial relations landscape in Europe for the vehicle and supply industries?
J-M G: “We have a common interest with the unions that retains high level jobs in Europe, to keep our standard of living. With the European Metalworkers Federation [for example], we are on the same line.”
Tomorrow (11 April) Gales will address the contentious issue of over-capacity, while also discussing CLEPA’s role in Free Trade agreements around the world, as well as repair and maintenance information access.