CEO who calls himself ‘performance psychopath’ takes over new auto empire

The just-finalized merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and PSA Group is poised to lift the worldwide profile of an under-the-radar chief government who will lead an unlimited and massively complicated carmaker with quiet depth.

The market debut this week of Stellantis, the group shaped by the Italian-American and French auto producers, will perform as coming-out occasion for its chief, Carlos Tavares. He’s spent a 40-year career rising up the ladder of an business that birthed the trendy day celeb CEO, engineering spectacular turnarounds whereas largely going unrecognized taking business flights out and in of Detroit.

The wiry, hyperactive 62-year-old has proven little need to be one other Lee Iacocca, Dieter Zetsche, Sergio Marchionne or Carlos Ghosn. But whether or not he comes round to the highlight or not, he’ll get far more of it steering an empire of roughly 400,000 staff and 14 manufacturers into an unsure future, the place automobiles more and more run off of batteries and software and the combustion engine meets its demise.

“He’s not selling Carlos, and he doesn’t want to,” stated Jim Press, an auto government who labored with Tavares when the latter headed Nissan Motor Co.’s North American operations. “He develops people and organizations. The guy is a great businessman.”

Automotive mega mergers have failed in easier occasions. Before Daimler’s disastrous mixture with Chrysler across the flip of the century, PSA’s archrival Renault acquired American Motors in a doomed deal the French company reversed from a bit of over a decade later.

For Tavares to succeed with Stellantis, he’ll should do extra than simply streamline and slash prices, the playbook he adopted in bringing PSA again from the brink. The self-described “performance psychopath” additionally should show his product chops and atone for electrification in an period when little appears to matter extra to traders.

Racing roots

Born and raised in Lisbon, Tavares displayed his early ardour as a 14-year-old volunteer on the Estoril monitor. He has since competed in additional than 500 races as an beginner driver and has stated he turned an engineer as a result of he lacked the expertise and money to race professionally. He was scheduled to drive a Lancia Stratos at an annual rally in Monaco this month earlier than Covid-19 compelled its cancellation.

After graduating from considered one of France’s high engineering colleges, Tavares began his career at Renault in 1981. He headed up accomplice Nissan’s North America operations for 2 years earlier than turning into No. 2 to Ghosn at Renault in 2011.

In an uncommon energy play for a high job, he advised Bloomberg News in 2013 that since Ghosn was planning to stay round, he can be enthusiastic about operating General Motors Co. or Ford Motor Co. He left Renault inside weeks and took the helm of almost-bankrupt PSA six months later.

Carlos Tavares, chief government officer of PSA Group.

The French state and China’s Dongfeng Motor Group bailed out PSA by taking part in a share sale and three billion-euro capital increase. Tavares pruned the mannequin lineup, minimize prices and raised car costs. PSA turned its first annual revenue in three years.
He utilized related techniques with Opel and Vauxhall, the manufacturers GM cast off to PSA in 2017 after racking up about $20 billion of losses over twenty years. By slashing improvement spending and shopping for out 1000’s of employees, he swiftly pushed these operations into the black.

“The Tavares factor was probably the most underestimated” of PSA’s 2014 turnaround plan, stated Societe Generale auto analyst Stephen Reitman. “Opel Vauxhall was seen as maybe a step too far, but he proved that by patiently going around and reasoning with people, they would reconsider positions that had contributed to 20 years of losses.”

Five-slide rule

Bloomberg News spoke with half a dozen folks who have labored carefully with Tavares. They describe him as ultra-competitive with a dogged consideration to element. He doesn’t tolerate conferences beginning late or dragging on and asks underlings to make shows in 5 slides or much less.

Tavares shuns the annual gathering of business elite that Ghosn frequented in Davos, Switzerland, and exhibits as much as glitzy automobile exhibits in scuffed-up dad sneakers. He usually spends weekends tinkering on automobiles at his suburban Paris residence.

As head of Stellantis, he’ll answer to dynastic shareholders — the Agnellis, led by Chairman John Elkann, in addition to the Peugeots — and politics will play an outsize position. The French state will retain a stake within the merged company, and Italy’s deputy financial system minister has hinted its authorities might purchase a shareholding as effectively.

PSA’s outgoing Chairman Louis Gallois has stated that since Tavares’s roots are in Portugal, the place he owns a winery and small vintage-car business, he’ll be an efficient impartial arbiter.

Stellantis will probably be an amalgam of mannequin strains with a robust presence in North America’s profitable truck and SUV segments, because of Fiat Chrysler’s Ram and Jeep divisions. PSA’s revitalized Peugeot and Citroen manufacturers even have excelled in Europe and are the envy of Renault.

Yet Stellantis gained’t have a lot of a foothold within the luxury-car business. The Alfa Romeo and Maserati strains are struggling and PSA’s DS is tiny. Fiat Chrysler and PSA even have stumbled in China’s huge auto market.

“Tavares knows that if the Chinese market is a medium- or long-term goal, Europe is right now Stellantis’ most compelling challenge,” stated Carlo Alberto Carnevale Maffe, a professor at Bocconi University in Milan. “He needs to act by cutting costs, recovering profitability and investing in a range of technologies.”


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