Gérard Amiel took up the post of executive chairman of Renault Trucks Defense (RTD) on June 1, as the military vehicles unit became a subsidiary of Renault Trucks, owned by the Swedish Volvo auto group.
Before his promotion, Amiel was head of the staff department at Renault Trucks, and his appointment sparked speculation that the parent company wanted him to slim the business down for a sale.
But growth rather than an exit strategy is what Amiel has in mind, with an eye firmly fixed on exports.
Q. RTD and Nexterrecently announced a cooperation agreement on France's expected competition for the Véhicule Blindé Multi-Role (VBMR) troop carrier. How do you see that working?
A. We have a long history of partnership with Nexter. We are partners to supply all the mobility functions of the Véhicule Blindé Combat d'Infanterie infantry fighting vehicle; we supply the carrier [chassis] for the Caesar cannon, so the VBMR partnership is the third agreement with our neighbors. The share of competences will be similar to that of VBCI.
This is a partnership to make a joint offer. We won't make separate bids. The tender is expected in mid-2012, selection in 2013 and first delivery in 2013. It will be a European competition, it's not because we're making a joint offer that we'll win.
Q. Do you see any opportunities for cooperation under the Anglo-French cooperation treaty?
A. This is a question on which we have regular talks with the Direction Générale de l'Armement. The treaty talks about missiles and drones, but the land sector is rather forgotten. We are totally absent from the British market. We weren't approached by our British friends. We have had talks in the past with BAE, but they didn't lead to anything. We were at [the DSEI trade show] in London, but there were no new calls to the table.
Q. How do you view the prospects of a European cross-border consolidation in land systems, maybe based on the Weimar group - France, Germany and Poland?
A. It won't be easy because the German industry is extremely powerful, KMW and Rheinmetal have combined annual sales of 2 billion to 3 billion euros ($2.66 billion to $4 billion) in land defense. Our sales are 300 million euros, so we're small. We belong to the Volvo group, so it would be difficult to link up with the MAN commercial vehicles group, because of anti-monopoly laws.
I think agreements will be at the worldwide level rather than Europe. The markets are in South America, Middle East, Africa, Asia. It's these competitive markets which push innovation and put pressure on prices.
Q. So Europe will consist of small and medium-sized companies?
A. No. The market will create the mergers. Some companies will progress, others will perish. The VBMR contract is worth 2 billion euros over 10 years. That's 200 million euros a year. That's not enough to keep a big company alive. The Véhicule Leger Tout Terrain Protegé program is 2,000 trucks. At 30,000 euros per unit, that's 60 million euros. When you have companies with 3 billion euros of annual sales, the French programs are minuscule. European companies look to export markets to survive. And if they don't succeed in exports, they'll die.
-- By Pierre Tran in Paris.