Renault Argentina’s new management wants its plant in Santa Isabel to be a utility vehicle factory. Kangoo’s success, the production of Nissan’s Frontier truck, and the attempt it will make to refloat the pick-up Alaskan go in this direction.
The strategy is part of the work plan of Pablo Sibilla, CEO of Renault Argentina since January 1 last, who passed through Córdoba to start the celebrations for the 65 years of the factory.
Yesterday his 3.2 millionth vehicle left the production line. It was a Kangoo, the third most successful model of the 33 that it has manufactured throughout its history, behind Clio and Renault 12.
For the executive, this year the automotive market will be “similar to 2019”, with what is expected between 380 thousand and 400 thousand patents. Despite the drop in interest rates, the expected recovery would only come at the end of the year or in 2021.
“It is a reasonable market. It allows factories to work at least one shift, “he assured. Santa Isabel produces 226 vehicles a day from the Sandero, Stepway, Logan, Kangoo and Nissan Frontier models. With the current internal context, its managers have set their sights on exports.
“The priority is to supply the local market and start working to export. The impact will not be seen this year, because external markets take time, “he said.
Since the disappearance of Clio Mio, Renault has not had an exportable product, so it only sells 15 percent of its production abroad. For this reason, it works on the shipment of Kangoo to Mexico, while preparing the homologation of the engine in Brazil (it tightened its rules that regulate environmental pollution), with the intention of starting shipments in 2021.
To this will be added Alaskan, the first pick-up Renault, which promised to be the second product to leave the production line with Nissan, but which the fall in the markets of Argentina and Brazil left in stand by.
“We are waiting for the ideal moment in the market. With the dealers and the union (Smata), it is evaluating what adjustments to apply to make this truck viable, ”explained Sibilla.
The executive also met with the Industry Minister, Eduardo Accastello, to whom he raised the need to renew some support programs linked to this project.
This is part of Sibilla’s plan to convert the Cordovan plant into a utility vehicle factory.
“The utility market in Argentina is very strong and the gene for these products is in the DNA of Santa Isabel. Furthermore, it is easier to export them, because they are less sensitive to the swings of the local exchange rate. The natural thing is that entry-level cars are manufactured in Brazil and that the Argentine industry specializes in utility vehicles, “he explained.
Investment and employment
The plan is completed with the search, together with the Japanese Nissan, for new regional markets to export the Frontier and a forthcoming Renault utility vehicle, which, for now, is kept in reserve.
According to Sibilla, this will not imply new investments in the next year and a half.
Both companies spent $ 600 million to make trucks, and the French brand alone put more than $ 110 million to make the new Kangoo. Today its lines are still underused.
If the internal market is not reactivated, neither will it involve adding employees; it will only consolidate current positions. Renault has 2,700 employees in Argentina, of which 2,200 are in Córdoba and 1,800 are operators.
At the end of the month, the agreement he signed in 2019 with Smata will expire, which reduced the work shift to six hours, with which he assumed the commitment not to reduce his staff.
“The dialogue with Smata is unbeatable, but there is no decision made whether the agreement will continue or not. We are in dialogue ”, he highlighted.
On the other hand, he announced that he thinks “seriously” about bringing the Zoe this year, which would be the brand’s second electric vehicle in Argentina, after the Kangoo ZE. To support these products, the firm brings home charging equipment and works on the installation of charging stations in shopping centers.
If this is confirmed, the Zoe will join the releases planned for this year, which include the new versions Sandero RS, Megane RS and Duster.
Regarding the conflict over savings plans, according to Sibilla, in some “particular cases” Renault is providing facilities (extension of terms or financing) for customers who cannot pay the installments.
Women in the line: Multipurpose positions
The positions in the line, for men and for women.
Of the 1,800 Renault operators, between 11 and 12 percent are women. Innovation and working with more than 120 robots allow each position on the production line to be versatile, that is, it can be occupied by men or women.
Among the operators is María Pía Vankeirsbilck (photo), who entered two years ago and performs check-ups on the assembly line of the Nissan Frontier truck. Before, he had worked in a furniture factory that belongs to his brother.
“The difference in strength is no longer as marked as before. In general, production is assisted by machinery and robots, so men and women make the same force. It costs more to outsiders to understand that a woman can be on the assembly line of a car; Inside, the men at the plant are all very respectful, “said Vankeirsbilck.
The original text of this article was published on 03/13/2020 in our printed edition.