Renault hires Toyota production exec Biondo to lead key EV, LCV factories

Europe

PARIS — Renault has hired Luciano Biondo, the head of Toyota Europe’s assembly operations in Valenciennes, northern France, to lead its factory network in the region, focusing on electric vehicles and light-commercial vans.

Marvin Cooke, senior vice president for manufacturing at Toyota Motor Europe, will assume Biondo’s responsibilities as part of his current job, Toyota said in a release.

At Renault, Biondo will have responsibility for three factories – at Douai, Maubeuge and Ruitz – that are critical to future growth for Renault. 

He will report to Jose Vicente de los Mozos, executive vice president for industrial operations at Renault Group.

“His mission will be to steer, in consultation with all stakeholders, the project to create an optimized center of excellence for electric vehicles and light-commercial vehicles in the north of France,” de los Mozos said in a statement on Tuesday.

Renault has recently invested 1 billion euros to prepare sites in France to produce electric vehicles and components. 

The Douai factory will produce a compact electric SUV on the Renault-Nissan alliance’s new CMF-EV platform, starting in late 2021 or early 2022. Renault currently builds the Espace midsize minivan, Scenic compact minivan and midsized Talisman sedan at Douai, but the future of those models – in segments that are losing ground to SUVs – is unclear, Renault officials have acknowledged.

The Ruitz plant builds transmissions for Renault’s E-Tech hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, which have just gone into production this year. 

Maubeuge builds the Renault Kangoo small van, which is available in commercial and passenger versions, as well as variants for Mercedes (Citan) and Nissan (NV250). A new generation Kangoo will be introduced this year.

At Valenciennes, Biondo led the plant’s expansion to 4,800 workers from 3,600 and oversaw the introduction of a new platform that underpin the new-generation Yaris small car and coming Yaris Cross small SUV.

His departure came a surprise at the factory and in the region, where Biondo, the son of a local miner, won praise from labor leaders. “He’s very grounded; he knows everybody here,” Thomas Mercier of the CFDT union told the French business newspaper Les Echos.

Biondo worked at Toyota Motor Manufacturing France, as the Valenciennes facility is known, starting in 2002 as a paint engineer and rising to head of the paint department. He left Toyota in 2006 to join PSA Group, where he worked as paint department director in PSA’s factory in Mulhouse, France. He was named assembly director at Mulhouse in October 2007, a post he held until 2009 when he was named production director at PSA’s factory in Trnava, Slovakia. In 2012 he was named director of the Mulhouse plant.

He rejoined Toyota in 2014 as senior vice president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing France and was named president in 2016. 

Toyota builds the Yaris small car at the Valenciennes site, which started operations in 2001. The automaker recently invested 400 million euros to start production of the Yaris Cross small SUV there, and this summer started to build the fourth-generation Yaris

In announcing Biondo’s departure and Cooke’s new responsibilities, Toyota Motor Europe also reported other executive changes:

  • Frank Okisor moves to CEO of Toyota Connected Europe from vice president people and innovation, replacing Augstin Martin.
  • Martin will become head of marketing and sales at Toyota Great Britain, replacing Paul Van der Burgh, who is retiring.
  • Jean-Christoph Deville, vice president corporate at Toyota Motor Manufacturing France, will support Cooke in managing day-to-day operations at the Valenciennes site.

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