Carlos Tavares nostalgic for a bygone era + ex post clarifications

Raison sur le fond, tort sur la forme?

Carlos Tavares' interview in Le Figaro was apparently intended to alert politicians and citizens to the dangers facing our economies and industries by letting the European authorities set a target for the automotive industry to reduce CO2 emissions by -37.5% for the period 2021-2030.

Taking politicians loud and clear from the success of the group he leads, he does not hesitate to label their votes and discussions as "amateurish". Pretending to think only of the collective (editor's note i.e. the ACEA - European Automobile Manufacturers' Association), he warns MEPs and governments of the consequences for employment and European foreign trade of the decision now taken to force manufacturers to massively electrify their registrations, and that against the will of consumers for whom he wants to be the spokesman.
He thus gives the impression that he wants to obtain, as president of ACEA, what the US carmakers obtained from the Trump administration when they appointed Scott Pruit as head of the EPA and let him reconsider the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) targets for 2025, decided in 2011, by considering that, under Obama, the EPA "had made assumptions to define the standards that do not correspond to reality and that led it to choose excessively demanding standards".

As he says and knows himself, the problem is not that he is right or wrong because, undeniably, the industrial and technological issues he raises are real issues.
The problem is whether it can be heard beyond the circle of automotive or industry activists.
While he complains about the militant hysteria that has taken the place of reason since the Volkswagen affair, he adopts a posture that can only feed the feeling on the other side that the automakers are decidedly hopelessly contemptuous of the environment and democracy and ready for anything - including employment blackmail - to call into question a decision that is not acceptable to them.

This was the reaction of Karima Delli (a French ecologist MEP), who, when questioned by Nabil Bourassi of La Tribune, on her reaction to C. Tavares' remarks, said she was "angry because M. Tavares dares to use the word "amateurism" when pointing out the legislators that we are. However, it is his own that is at stake in this case of CO2 emissions. It has not been able to invest in clean, low-emission engines earlier, when the technologies have been around for a long time.
In fact, as Autoactu has already noted, it is no coincidence that the triptych takeover of Opel/dedication/SUVéisation of its ranges puts PSA, according to calculations made by PA Consulting, in a rather unfortunate position for the first CAFE meeting scheduled for 2021.
In fact, this quite largely undermines the credibility of the group leader, who can hardly be heard when he complains that, since the Volkswagen affair, there has been a tendency to put all the manufacturers in the same boat.
The reality is that the strategy developed by PSA has not made the reduction of CO2 emissions a priority and that the course taken in Brussels is more dissatisfactory to it than to others.

Seen from the window of Karima Delli or Transport & Environment, C. Tavares' comments clearly indicate that the dialogue with ACEA can only be a dialogue of the deaf, as most manufacturers seem to refuse to take climate and public health issues seriously at last.
That is basically what has changed since 2015, policymakers in Brussels, Berlin or Paris, whether they are ecologists or not, have had - not without reason - the feeling that they have been "wandered around" for years by manufacturers and their experts  and that it was time, on all subjects, to listen to them a little less and impose a little more.
The very fact that, instead of accepting the democratically taken decision, C. Tavares is trying to challenge its validity rather than trying to structure intelligent collective management seems to indicate that he has remained in the "old world" or that he would like to return to it.
While he should now be proactive, as he at times claims to be by saying that it can only accept decisions taken by politicians, C. Tavares cannot help but instil the doubt that undermines the legitimacy of these decisions and ultimately proposes to re-examine them in a position that is, in the true sense of the word, "reactionary".

Karima Delli, in her interview, does not deny the magnitude of the industrial change issues that the recent agreement represents. She said that the EU, Member States and industrialists had 11 years to organise themselves to deal with it and that she would propose that, at the beginning of the next European term of office, "a summit on the conversion of the European automotive industry" be organised.
She invited C. Tavares to debate in the European Parliament, stating: "We must not be afraid to talk about all subjects. Including the life cycle of the electric car." Very clearly, she's in line with the "new world" that has been structured since autumn 2015 - and she's asking C. Tavares to be in line with it as well.

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Carlos Tavares vs Karima Delli : clarifications on yesterday's chronicle 

I have not developed the habit of responding to the praise or, more often, the reproaches that can be unleashed at my words and at myself. Nevertheless, since there is a misunderstanding about the meaning of what I wrote, I feel obliged this time to make some clarifications to the remarks I made yesterday in these columns.
 
My point was neither to agree with Carlos Tavares nor to agree with Karima Delli on the substance. Rather, it was to provide a political analysis and indicate that the balance of power in Europe has changed over the past four years to the detriment of industry and to the benefit of NGOs, environmentalists and large cities mayors. The discourse of those who some of the commentators on Autoactu's articles like to call the "Green Khmers", which might have seemed very excessive a few years ago, is becoming more and more common. It is also used quite systematically by political staff not labelled as ecologists, on the right and left. The latter, some of whom have been in parliament for a long time, do not fail to remember that, in the past, they did not have the feeling that our preferred industry was, with them, perfectly transparent.
 
Because I know this world a little bit and because I have on several occasions come across politicians in charge of these issues, I have been able to measure this evolution and realize that neither manufacturers, nor trade unions, nor local elected officials who share - as is my case - a large part of the concerns expressed by Carlos Tavares are now able to make themselves heard without taking note of this political fact. I quote Karima Delli to indicate how these actors, now dominant, interpret the situation. I do not give her any reason or wrong, but I indicate how she - who is on the side of the winners - interprets what C. Tavares said.
 
It is precisely because I am convinced that the leap that industry is being asked to take is extremely dangerous and will require very strong collective mobilisation and intelligence that I am concerned about the most appropriate political strategy. I simply wanted to point out that if we integrate the political reality of 2019, this strategy must give politicians the recognition that their desires are legitimate, even if we think otherwise. I'm not happy about that. I see this and simply suggest that it is more appropriate to play the game and hope to return to an earlier configuration that I see is no longer there. This is what we could call realpolitik: by taking note of what the European institutions, which are a priori democratic, have decided and possibly pretending to find the challenge exciting, the profession will be better able to obtain the support and accommodation it needs than by persistently regretting that these institutions are not being more skewed towards them.  
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Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator, corrections by Géry Deffontaines

 

La chronique de Bernard Jullien est aussi sur www.autoactu.com.

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