Q&A: CHRISTIAN STREIFF

Streiff tells team: ‘Run faster but don’t change anything’

“We have completely changed our r&d programs and are massively investing in new low-emission engine generations,” said Christian Streiff.
Slightly more than a year in the top job, Christian Streiff is in a good mood. PSA/Peugeot-Citroen’s 2007 unit sales were up, net profit jumped tenfold to €826 million and the group’s operating profit margin rose 0.9 percentage points. The improvement, says Streiff, reflected progress on all four of his key strategic initiatives: improving quality, lowering costs, speeding up the new-product rollout and growing the international business more quickly. Streiff credits the PSA work force with the progress. “The whole team got a boost out of what we did last year,” Streiff said. “What I told them was ‘Run faster but don’t change anything. What you did last year was really nice.’ ”

The PSA boss spoke with Automotive News Europe Editor Arjen Bongard and Reporter Lawrence J. Speer at the Geneva auto show earlier this month.

Where are you with your Cap 2010 restructuring program?

We’re on track. We feel very good on the quality side. We’ve experienced a kind of revolution in the plants. Our warranty costs are down. We achieved 16 percent growth outside western Europe and our plan to roll out 53 new cars in four years is actually happening.

How is your quality initiative going?

The Peugeot 308 has by far the best quality level at the start of a project we’ve ever achieved. We’ll be even better with the new [Citroen] Berlingo and [Peugeot] Partner. And we’ll be even better with the new [Citroen] C5. We said we would bring our warranty costs down 50 percent between 2006 and 2010. We did 20 percent in the first year, which is a good feeling.

How do you keep track of the progress on all the Cap 2010 programs?

The project managers for all 150 action plans know that every second week there is a full eight hours with the president to see how the project is going and to check whether its status is green, orange or red. They know only a few days in advance which project will come up.

How is your competitive situation in the market?

Relative to our competitors, we feel a little better every day. We’re not in the US and have a very low exposure to the dollar. Also, our plans are not highly linked to additional volume. They are based on boosting competitiveness, cutting costs, and reducing warranty costs. So 80 percent depends on us and not on the environment. And having gone through a restructuring, we’re now regaining a competitive advantage and that makes us relatively comfortable.

How is the focus on CO2 emissions and the environment affecting PSA?

It’s really changing the business. I think it will shape the business and the automotive world for the next decades. I believe the average power of the car will go down and the average weight will go down. This is changing the shapes of cars. The whole industry is working hard to cope with legislation. We don’t want to run behind history but anticipate what will happen.

And what does that mean for PSA?

We have completely changed our r&d programs and are massively investing in new low-emission engine generations. We are investing massively in micro hybridization. Two months ago, I promised that we would have 1 million cars with micro-hybrid systems by 2011. It will actually be many more.

What kind of retail regime do you want after the current block-exemption regulation expires in 2010?

What we wish for is to have no change or at least as little change as possible.

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