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New Groupe PSA executive vice president, Global Purchasing & Supplier Quality, Michelle Wen has held a number of senior managing positions with blue-chip companies across various industries including the automotive business. Just-Auto caught up with her at the recent Mondial de l’Automobile in Paris.

From 1997 to 2000, she worked for Siemens’ automotive multimedia branch (previously Philips Car Systems / Mannesmann VDO) where she held the position of Strategic Alliances manager and senior purchasing manager. From 2000 until 2008, Michelle joined Renault-Nissan Purchasing Organisation for Powertrain and then for Vehicle Body area.

From 2008 to 2012, she was vice president for Sourcing and later also responsible for Supplier Quality Development for Alstom Transport Signalling business. From 2012 to 2016, she held the position of Group CPO of Vallourec.

Michelle Wen joins Groupe PSA as Opel Vauxhall Purchasing & Supplier Quality vice president from Vodafone Procurement Company where she was Group Supply Chain Management Network director.

JA: Why have you decided to return to the automotive world?

MW: If I compare the reasons why I am back in automotive, it is because it is challenging and interesting with a lot of potential. Another reason why I am back is I truly believe in our leadership – we are very performance-driven – for me our “raison d’être” is to bring performance to the company and to reinforce performance of our suppliers in terms of QCD (Quality, Cost, Delivery).

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JA: How is the Opel-Vauxhall acquisition progressing for Groupe PSA and the supply chain?

MW: The Opel-Vauxhall integration works effectively – the two organisations have since 2013 already had opportunities to work together. We talked to each other thanks to common projects – on the purchasing side we are one team from January 2018. Key account managers are taking care of the five brands – [Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Opel, Vauxhall] – same for our supplier side – now they only need one account manager instead of two. It is a more concentrated, better organisation.

I started working with Groupe PSA on the Opel-Vauxhall side, so I had already met them at our supplier convention day [where there are] 70-80 product manufacturers.

JA: There has been much talk of PSA and your competitors outsourcing component production to countries with far lower labour costs – is that something you will be pursuing in your new role?

MW: The beauty of our organisation is to be international – it is a great blessing to work with teams from all over the world.

Customers in different regions are looking for different things and our jobs is to look at the best way of purchasing parts. [I prefer to say] leading competitive countries instead of low cost countries. For every single product we need to find the best monozukuri approach.

It is important for Groupe PSA to be sustainable and profitable in the coming years, to be able to work with our key partners on the purchasing side, to buy the product, to come from the area which is the optimum. Of course, our suppliers could come from leading competitive countries. We have to make sure they fulfil requirements.

JA: How would you characterise your relationship with your suppliers?

MW: We have to make sure they can fulfil requirements. Groupe PSA is looking for “QCD” (Quality, Cost & Delivery)Performance, not only the lowest cost per part, but also TCO (Total Cost of Ownership). Quality is not a slogan, not a gimmick for the Group. Together with our engineering counterparts, we have already established a quality first transformation and committee. Another important criteria is that our suppliers must be Corporate Social Responsibility compliant.

JA: To what extent can you facilitate start-up seeding, for CASE technologies in particular?

MW: For some new technologies where our current suppliers can’t fulfil our expectations we need to use other resources. During this show [Mondial de l’Automobile] there is a lot of artificial intelligence [for example] and mobility [solutions] – these are areas where we are working.

We need to be ahead of the trend. I would say this technology is very new and it will probably take a few years, not just us, but with various industries to make that happen. From our side we can probably be ready, but we have to wait for other industries, to get customer trust.

From a purchasing point of view, we hear from our suppliers how they see things; definitely we are very active in this area.

JA: The European Parliament has just voted to slash CO2 emissions yet further – how does Groupe PSA view that challenge?

MW: Everything is possible – it will just take some more time. Governments in different areas of the world, they do not necessarily have the same idea. In certain cases with legislation requested by countries, we focus on BEV (Electric Vehicles on the small platform) and PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles) cars. However, certain products can be different.

Technologies are either ready or ongoing in terms of development, depending on regulations currently being validated by country and region.

With the digital world, things are moving much faster. To be sustainable in the future I think Groupe PSA, as well as our suppliers, need to be able to transform this technology towards the future. Our suppliers are able to do that – the trend is environmental.

JA: Some have expressed concern the supply chain may be disrupted if the UK exits the European Union without a trade deal. What is your view?

MW: I don’t think there is a big concern with our suppliers regarding Brexit. We have plants in the UK and we intend to continue producing our vehicles there in our two sites. Nobody knows what will happen. Nevertheless, we are prepared and confident whether it will be a hard or soft Brexit.