PARIS -- One of the first jobs of incoming Faurecia CEO Gregoire Olivier was at Toyota Motor Corp. in Nagoya, Japan.
A quarter-century later, after holding top jobs in electronics and telecommunications, Olivier, 45, returns to the auto industry in a post where his knowledge of Asia will be crucial.
Faurecia's board was expected to approve Olivier as CEO on Friday, Sept. 8. He will replace Pierre Levi, who resigned last month after telling German investigators he knew Faurecia employees had bribed Volkswagen purchasing executives.
One of Olivier's immediate tasks is to lessen the supplier's dependence on French automaker PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, which owns 71 percent of Faurecia.
"Faurecia is too French," said Philip Wylie, head of the automotive corporate finance team at PricewaterhouseCoopers. "It needs to expand its Asian business."
In his previous job as a management board member at Safran, a telecommunications and aeronautics group, Olivier last year negotiated closer ties with Chinese cell phone maker Ningbo Bird. The partnership included a joint venture on mobile-phone r&d.
That experience with Asian partners will come in handy. Last year only 4 percent of Faurecia's 10.98 billion euros ($14.06 billion) in sales came from the rapidly growing Asian markets. By comparison, France accounted for 31 percent of company revenue.
Faurecia also wants to expand further in the United States, which generated 11 percent of its 2005 sales. Olivier holds a graduate degree from the University of Chicago and worked in that city in the mid-1990s as a plant manager for French aluminum company Pechiney.
Olivier, an engineering graduate of France's Ecole Polytechnique, is described as a bright, approachable, hands-on manager with a taste for technology.
"But he will have to be more than that," says Gerard Augustin-Normand, chairman of French fund manager Richelieu Finance. "The auto industry is in crisis, and there is scope for far-reaching strategic decisions."
Paris-based Richelieu Finance owns 8.6 percent of Faurecia and is the company's No. 2 shareholder behind PSA. Augustin-Normand declined to say what kind of strategic decisions he would like Olivier to make.
Responding to questions about the future of PSA's involvement in Faurecia, a PSA spokesman said: "Our policy remains unchanged -- to reduce our Faurecia stake to 51 percent at some stage."
You may e-mail Sylviane de Saint-Seine at [email protected]