PSA Peugeot Citroen on Thursday announced a three-year, EUR355m capital spend at its Valenciennes plant, in the Nord ‘department’ [administrative region] of France, and at the Française de Mécanique facility in Douvrin, in the Pas de Calais and said it would end the light commercial vehicle-producing joint venture with Fiat at the Sevelnord plant after 2017.

A EUR220m investment will see the gearbox plant in Valenciennes expanded by the end of 2014 to produce a new new dual clutch transmission with capacity for up to 400,000 units a year, and creating 400 new jobs.

“The new line of seven-speed automatic gearboxes will offer outstanding performance in fuel efficiency and driving experience,” PSA said in a statement.

Its current Peugeot and Citroen model lines offer six-speed automated manual or fully automatic/torque converter transmission options and the addition of twin clutch ‘boxes will bring it into line with European rivals such as Volkswagen , which introduced a six-speed dual ‘wet clutch’ Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG ) option some years ago and more recently added seven-speed ‘dry clutch’ versions.

Ford has more recently begun rolling out a Getrag-sourced six-speed dual clutch transmission option branded ‘Powershift’ for its European-made model lines and recently introduced the gearbox to North America in its Europe-designed, Mexican-made Fiesta.

PSA also said its ‘automatic gearbox centre of expertise’ R&D unit, based at the Valenciennes plant and currently staffed by around 50 engineers and technicians, would grow to 110 people in 2013 and “enhance the group’s expertise in the strategic area of the automatic transmissions”.

The automaker will spend EUR135m over three years at the Française de Mécanique plant in Douvrin. In 2013, this factory will start producing a new, turbocharged, three-cylinder petrol engine, with capacity of up to 320,000 units per year. The turbo version will complement naturally aspirated versions that the Metz-Trémery plant, in the Lorraine region, will produce from 2012 onwards, with a capacity of 640,000 units a year.

“These major capital expenditure programmes confirm PSA Peugeot Citroën’s commitment to be a leading manufacturer in France, particularly in the Nord Pas de Calais region,” the automaker said.

The automaker added it would continue to jointly produce light commercial vehicles in a joint venture with Fiat at the Sevelnord plant until 2017 but the two partners had decided not to renew the JV agreement after that date “due to diverging product strategies”.

“The product strategies of Fiat and PSA Peugeot Citroën in the segment served by the Peugeot Expert, Citroën Jumpy [Nemo] and Fiat Scudo being divergent, their joint-venture at Sevelnord will not be renewed,” PSA said.

“Besides, in the framework of their cooperation agreement in light commercial vehicles, PSA Peugeot Citroën and Fiat are planning to produce the Peugeot Boxer, Citroën Jumper and Fiat Ducato to 2019, in [the Sevelsud plant in] Val di Sangro, Italy.

Denis Martin, PSA’s head of industrial operations, said: “These investment programmes at Douvrin and Valenciennes, as well as the expansion of the automatic gearbox centre of expertise, demonstrate the growing importance of the group’s powertrains production operations in the Nord Pas de Calais region.

“This region is asserting its role as a source of excellence in addressing the challenges faced by the automotive industry.

“Regarding the end of our partnership with Fiat at the Sevelnord plant, the 2017 deadline is far away enough for us to work on preparing the evolution of the plant’s operations. Up to this date, this work will be conducted by the group in close liaison with the public authorities and Nord Pas de Calais Region.”

VALENCIENNES FACTS: 

According to PSA, the Valenciennes site came on line in 1980, specialising in the production of gearboxes and advanced technology sub-systems combining quality and precision. The site produces four types of gearbox: five-speed manual, four-speed automatic, six-speed compact automated manual and six-speed compact manual.

Gearboxes produced at Valenciennes plant are fitted in Peugeot and Citroën vehicles with mid-range engines and are installed in almost half of the vehicles made by the Group worldwide:

Peugeot: 206 + (69%), 207 (36%), 308 (88%), 3008 (75%), 5008 (68%), 508 (41%), RCZ (50%), Partner (100%), Expert (40%)

Citroën: C3 (28%), DS3 (65%), C3 Picasso (100%), C4 (94%), C4 Picasso (93%), DS4 (45%), C5 (37%), Berlingo (100%), Jumpy [Nemo] (49%), Xsara Picasso Mercosur (100%)

In 2010 the Valenciennes site produced 1.561m gearboxes.

With over 32.6m gearboxes produced to date, the Valenciennes site is a global benchmark for gearbox plants, PSA claims.

SEVELNORD FACTS:

Opened in 1992, the Sevelnord (Société Européenne des Véhicules Légers du Nord) final assembly plant builds the Peugeot 807 and Citroën C8 MPVs, plus the Peugeot Expert, Citroën Jumpy [Nemo] and Fiat Scudo light vans.

In 2010 Sevelnord produced 89,862 vehicles. Current workforce is 2,800.