The French automobile industry, which has been a pioneer and a leader in the global market, is facing some challenges amid changing consumer preferences and environmental concerns. The recent merger of Peugeot S.A. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the rise of new mobility services are some of the factors that are reshaping the sector.
In January 2021, the merger between the French PSA Group and the Italian American Fiat Chrysler Automobiles created Stellantis, the fourth-largest automaker in the world by revenue. The new company, which owns brands such as Peugeot, Citroën, Opel, Fiat, Jeep, and Alfa Romeo, aims to achieve synergies and economies of scale, as well as to invest in electrification and digitalization. Stellantis has a strong presence in Europe, North America, and Latin America, but faces competition from other global players such as Volkswagen, Toyota, and Tesla.
COVID-19: A Crisis and an Opportunity
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the French automobile industry, as it disrupted production, supply chains, and demand. According to Statista, the total number of motor vehicles produced in France dropped from 2.21 million in 2019 to 1.38 million in 2020, a decrease of 37.5%. The sales of passenger cars also declined by 25.5% in 2020 compared to 2019. However, the crisis also created some opportunities for the sector, as consumers shifted to personal mobility options over public transportation for safety reasons. The French government also introduced a stimulus package to support the industry, which included incentives for buying electric and hybrid vehicles, scrapping old cars, and investing in innovation.
New Mobility Services: A Threat or an Opportunity?
Another trend that is affecting the French automobile industry is the emergence of new mobility services, such as car-sharing, ride-hailing, bike-sharing, and e-scooters. These services offer alternatives to car ownership and usage, especially for urban dwellers who seek convenience, affordability, and sustainability. According to a study by McKinsey, the share of new mobility services in total passenger kilometers traveled in France could increase from 4% in 2018 to 13% in 2030. This could reduce the demand for new cars by up to 12% in 2030. However, these services also create new opportunities for the industry, as they require vehicles that are adapted to their specific needs and usage patterns. For instance, Renault has partnered with several car-sharing operators such as Zity and Moov’in.Paris to provide electric vehicles for their fleets.
Environmental Concerns: A Challenge and a Driver
The French automobile industry is also facing increasing pressure from environmental regulations and consumer expectations to reduce its carbon footprint and improve its energy efficiency. The European Union has set ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport by 2030 and 2050, which require automakers to accelerate their transition to low-emission vehicles. The French government has also announced its intention to ban the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars by 2040. These measures pose a challenge for the industry, as they require significant investments in research and development, infrastructure, and customer education. However, they also act as a driver for innovation and differentiation, as consumers demand more environmentally friendly products and services. The French automobile industry has been a leader in electrification, with brands such as Renault and Peugeot offering a range of electric and hybrid models. According to Statista, France was the second-largest market for electric vehicles in Europe in 2020, with a market share of 11%.
The French automobile industry is undergoing a transformation amid changing consumer preferences and environmental concerns. The sector faces some challenges but also some opportunities to adapt and innovate. The recent merger of Peugeot S.A. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has created a new automotive giant that aims to compete globally. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on production and sales but also stimulated demand for personal mobility options. The emergence of new mobility services offers alternatives to car ownership but also requires new vehicle solutions. The environmental regulations and expectations push the industry to reduce its emissions but also drive its electrification.