ST. ETIENNE, France - Pascal Feillard has a knotty problem on his hands.
As coordinator of PSA/Peugeot-Citroen SA's vehicle end-of-life strategy division, Feillard is making plans to recycle tens of thousands of Peugeots and Citroens now on the roads of Europe.
France's two dominant automakers - Peugeot and Renault SA - are taking different courses to arrive at the same result: compliance with the proposed European Commission recycling regulations.
Peugeot's strategy is based on partnerships with the country's existing network of 450 certified auto dismantlers and scrap yards.
'We will partner with the existing companies. This is the advantage' to our plan, Peugeot's Feillard said. 'To start from nothing and build a recycling network, we would need a whole new source of money.'
Renault, on the other hand, has taken its recycling program in-house. It is designing tools that make dismantling easier, and is cataloging its vehicles on a computer program to help the dismantlers reclaim the most valuable components.
At its headquarters in the Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt, a team of engineers brainstorms new ways to tear apart vehicles.
'It is better to take one car into one workshop to learn about how to dismantle the car,' said Renault engineer Robert Lassertesses.
With an annual budget of $5 million, the team, headed by Jean-Paul Vallat, has designed tools to dismantle vehicles. The team also has compiled a computer database of scrappage techniques, which is distributed to France's scrap yards on a CD-ROM disk.
Members of the recycling team attend product design committees, along with engineers who try to design vehicles that are easier to recycle. Some of the changes include a recyclable plastic fuel tank, wheel wells made of plastic and all-foam seat cushions.
The directives now under discussion by the European Commission call for automakers to pay for recycling once the vehicles are at the end of their lives.
By 2006, 85 percent of the vehicle's weight must be recycled. That total jumps to 95 percent by 2015. Executives and industry analysts have pegged the overall cost of recycling 150 million vehicles now on Europe's roads as much as $30 billion.
By the time the draft directives become laws, Feillard estimates there will be 25,000 to 30,000 Peugeot vehicles to recycle each year.
The front lines of Peugeot's recycling strategy are its dealerships. There, the company has established so-called 'automotive green spots,' which collect used oil from anyone who brings it in. Also at the dealerships, the used-parts arm of the company has launched a project called Secoia.
Old parts, such as alternators, transmissions and starters that the dealer collects through repair work, are refurbished and resold by Faurecia SA, a French supplier in which Peugeot owns a controlling interest. Secoia collects and refurbishes eight different parts. It will expand its inventory to 20 parts by the end of next year, Feillard said.
Once a car is destined for the junk yard, Peugeot's auto dismantling partners enter the picture. Working through two intermediaries, Indra SA and Eco-V.H.U. SA, Peugeot sells its junk cars to dismantlers and scrap yards.
HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS
The system works like this:
Peugeot sells junk cars to its partners for $50 apiece. Eco-V.H.U. then sells the cars to a dismantler for about $70. The dismantler removes all of the fluids and any metals that are worth money, then sends the remaining hulk to a scrap yard. The scrapper grinds the remains into golf ball-sized chunks, separating metal scrap from rubber and glass, and selling whatever it can.
The key to Peugeot's success will be its partnership, Feillard said.
One by-product of the relationship will be a rising level of professionalism among dismantlers and scrappers, Feillard said.
'Then we can slowly raise the level of recyclability to meet the regulations,' he said. 'But we don't want to change everything. We need a very efficient change from junk yards to industrial dismantling.'