The automotive industry’s C-suites have flocked to Switzerland for the annual Geneva International Motor Show, unveiling new cars that promise to pip its previous years. Euronews sits down with Citroën CEO Linda Jackson, who talked not only about the premiere of the company’s popular Berlingo, but also how the latest diesel scandals will affect Citroën, the automotive industry in the age of #MeToo, and how trade wars will impact car making.
Is diesel dead?
“It’s not going to be the manufacturer who says whether diesel will be dead. It’s the customer who’s going to choose,” says Jackson.
Citroën, which is part of Groupe PSA, offers up to three versions of a vehicle: petrol, electric and diesel. But in the aftermath of the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandals and an appetite for more environmentally friendly cars, Citroën has already noticed interest in diesel has waned.
“With all of the media exposure, the governmental exposure, the political soundbites on diesel — we can see diesel is reducing. And the only thing you can do as a manufacturer is make sure that you’ve got viable options for your customers.”
“We’ve seen a reduction in our diesel. I think it was something like 48%-47% diesel, whereas if you go three, four or five years ago we would’ve been up as high as 60%-70%. So that’s the customer choosing,” she says.
Jackson adds that there are no plans in the near future to phase out diesel within PSA, but said it would focus on making all if its cars electric.
“Eighty percent of our vehicles will have an electric version by 2023 … and 100% by 2025,” she says.
Trade wars and its impact
When President Donald Trump announced the US would impose a 25% tariff on imports of steel entering the country, a chorus of condemnation from EU leaders, including the EU Commissioner for Trade considering a tax on Levi’s, soon followed suit. Analysts have speculated over how the row could affect the automotive industry, but, for Jackson, there was no need to ring the alarms just yet.
But this pragmatism should not suggest the Citroën CEO is without opinion on trade wars.
“Having tariffs or quotas is restrictive, it’s basically protectionism in another way,” says Jackson.
“Having this protectionism, whether it be from America, whether it be from China, is not conducive for business — for any of us.
“Now that’s personal opinion, it’s not the view of PSA. But this sort of short-termism about protecting people in the long run, I’m not sure it’s right for the world. I’m not sure it’s right in terms of making sure that the world manages to trade with each other.”
“At the end of the day all you’re going to have is, as you say, trade wars. You’ll have tariffs and quotas from the US and then you’ll have them from the European Union, and then I’m sure there will be something against China … and how does that help?