Paris (AFP)

French automaker Renault, in financial difficulty, announced on Friday the loss of about 15,000 jobs worldwide, including 4,600 in France, as part of a savings plan of more than 2 billion euros over three years .

"This project is vital," said executive director Clotilde Delbos, quoted in a statement. Renault, which suffers from global production overcapacity, announced in February its first losses in ten years, entering the crisis caused by the Covid-19 epidemic weakened.

The plan provides for "nearly 4,600" positions cut in France, out of 48,000, and "more than 10,000" in the rest of the world. It is based "on retraining, internal mobility and voluntary departures," said Renault. Retirements will not be replaced, but no dry layoffs are announced.

In France, the plan should affect four sites, under conditions that remain to be defined in part: Caudan (Morbihan), Choisy-le-Roi (Val-de-Marne), Dieppe (Seine-Maritime) and Maubeuge (North).

The project includes stopping automobile production in Flins (Yvelines), at the end of the Zoe after 2024. The factory, which currently has 2,600 employees, will be converted and will recover activity at the Choisy-le-Roi site , which employs 260 people in parts recycling.

The future of Fonderie de Bretagne, with nearly 400 employees at Caudan, remains in abeyance with an announced "strategic review". The same goes for the Dieppe plant, which also employs nearly 400 people: the group says it has opened "a reflection on the reconversion of the plant, at the end of the production of the Alpine 110".

The merger of the Douai and Maubeuge sites in the North is envisaged to create a center of excellence for electric and light commercial vehicles. Production of the Kangoo electric utilities should be transferred to Douai, which will inherit a new platform.

Internationally, Renault plans to "suspend plans to increase capacity planned in Morocco and Romania". He said he was studying "the adaptation of production capacities in Russia and the rationalization of the manufacture of gearboxes worldwide".

Global production capacity is expected to decrease from 4 million vehicles currently to around 3.3 million on a two-shift basis (which corresponds to higher actual production in the case of a third shift). In total, the reduction in industrial facilities will reduce the company's fixed costs by 650 million euros per year.

- Political pressure -

In addition, the manufacturer plans 800 million euros in cost reduction in engineering, referring to "the optimization of the use of R&D centers abroad and subcontracting". He announced a reorganization of the activities of his technocentre in Guyancourt (Yvelines).

Finally, savings of 700 million euros are planned in general expenses, marketing and other support functions.

Renault specifies that the implementation of the plan will cost 1.2 billion euros, for about 2.15 billion annual savings on its fixed costs.

After press rumors evoking the closure of French sites, the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron had called Tuesday "guarantees" for the future of employees. He had put pressure on Renault by warning that a state-guaranteed loan of 5 billion euros would not be signed before discussions were held early next week.

The French State is the largest shareholder in the diamond group with 15% of the capital.

The savings plan was presented to French unions on Thursday evening, during a group social and economic committee (CCSE).

"The word closure has never been spoken. The subject remains whole" for "the sites that are in the viewfinder and for which there will be a reflection," said Franck Daout of the CFDT. An information-consultation procedure for staff representatives is due to start in mid-June.

Nissan's Japanese partner Nissan announced on Thursday that it would close its Spanish plant in Barcelona and cut approximately 20% of its global production capacity by 2023.

Wednesday, Renault, Nissan and their ally Mitsubishi Motors announced a strategic shift, now favoring profitability in the race for volumes, breaking with the plans of the former ousted boss Carlos Ghosn.

© 2020 AFP