“A woman at the head of an automobile company? That is not really the subject. What she has given us above all is her Anglo-Saxon culture!” A year after the surprise appointment of Linda Jackson to the general management of Citroën, this observation of a leader of the brand justifies the choice of Carlos Tavares a posteriori.
For the boss of the PSA group, this 56-year-old Briton – including 28 from Rover and 5 at the head of Citroën Great Britain – presented the perfect profile to set to music his Back in the race program, intended to revive the manufacturer in global competition. Linda Jackson wants efficiency. “Gone are the hours of somewhat intellectual discussions where we had fun,” continues our interlocutor. Since the arrival of the Briton, a wind of pragmatism has been blowing in the walls.
ENGLISH EDUCATION. The woman remembers those interminable meetings she discovered when she landed in Paris. “It may be useful for creativity, but what a waste of time!” she comments with an imperceptible smile. From now on, the rule valid for all employees, whatever their hierarchical level, imposes meetings of one hour at most, with a strictly defined agenda and presentations limited to fifteen minutes. Even the number of authorized slides is specified: no more than four! And digressions are prohibited: “we must clearly identify the points to be discussed and the answers we expect from colleagues present.”
Always in search of efficiency, the new boss very quickly reframed the schedules: 8 am – 6:30 pm. Goodbye extended days, where you feel obliged to haunt the offices until 9 pm. “I estimate that after 7 pm we no longer have clear ideas,” she told us one Monday morning in June at 8 am sharp, in her large office that she did not take the time to decorate. his way.
> Video. Enter Linda Jackson’s office with us:
And since we are in the chapter of the little pikes addressed to management à la française, Linda Jackson also insists on her desire to make people work together: “Before any decision, I make it a rule to discuss it beforehand with my colleagues. teams, so that people take their responsibilities. This is not so much in the habits of the French. ” And Bam. As for form, she adds that she appreciates our creativity and says she wants to put the two cultures in symbiosis to get the best out of them.
But this native of Coventry may well be, as it should be, in love with France and devote all her weekends to her Norman garden, she plays on her origins to impose her methods. Although she understands and speaks French perfectly, she very quickly continues the interview in English, as she does systematically with her close collaborators. “This prevents us from embroidering and forces us to get to the point,” welcomes Mathieu Bellamy, director of strategy. Which is good, since to believe a loved one “we should not explain things to him twice, half a time is enough!”
THE CACTUS AS AN EMBLEM. His discreet, almost reserved manners are more in line with the politics of reason than with the daring or genius strokes which, from the yellow cruise to the DS 19, have made the chevrons a mythical logo. At a time when Carlos Tavares wants to put an end to rivalries between brands within PSA and assign each a precise positioning, Linda Jackson knows that she is there to permanently install Citroën in the niche of the general public. Less glamorous, of course, than seducing the happy few with the spectacular design of the DS, which now form a brand in its own right, distinct from Citroën, but highly strategic at a time when PSA wants to finally set off on international conquest and rationalize its costs. .
What Tavares especially noted from Jackson’s service record in Great Britain, Citroën’s second-largest market after France, is that it has been able to straighten out margins while increasing market share. If she admits that her mission is above all to “improve the value of the brand and ensure its profitability”, she firmly refuses to consider it at the expense of the products. On the contrary. “We are still selling dreams, we have to offer sexy products,” she says. It is no coincidence that it is currently driving a C4 Cactus. This atypical model, with its plastic side shields, is consistent with the identity that the brand will have to impose: original models and useful technology.
LADY MARKETING. But the Jackson era should be above all, for Citroën, that of the great marketing turning point, where the relationship with the customer becomes predominant. An approach which, according to the boss, has no equivalent in the automotive sector. “This industry is starting from a long way off, confirms a consultant,” because it is still largely in the hands of engineers, because it does not know its customers very well and does not know how to talk to them. ” It is urgent at Citroën, because if the financial results are deemed acceptable by Carlos Tavares, the erosion of market share (around 4% in Europe, against 23% for Volkswagen for example) shows, according to him, that the new guidance is still struggling to pass in the audience.
To remedy this, Linda Jackson has set up a group of exclusively female researchers who imagine the car of tomorrow. It has also committed the dealer network to a quality approach, with a series of simple promises – to make the vehicle clean after an intervention, not to charge for work that was not scheduled but likely to improve the image of the brand. to the public.
AND THE NEW MODELS? Above all, the people of Citroën have seen a hundred geeks tumble in recent months, recruited in the purest start-up spirit. “They come to us for a year or two, the time to share their creativity with us and bring the brand into new communication channels”, explains a high-level executive. First results: more attractive institutional sites, a stronger presence on social networks – 10 million fans worldwide – and an abundance of ideas around future apps (alerts for revisions, geolocation of where the car is parked when ‘we are several to use it).
And the creation of Citroën Advisor, a service rating system modeled on that of TripAdvisor, which allows customers to rate the way they have been greeted and informed, to judge whether deadlines and delivery conditions have been met, etc. “This shows the customer that we want to be in a process of total transparency and therefore to put him in confidence”, explains Mathieu Bellamy. Launched in October, the service has collected 15,000 opinions, mostly good. But marketing teams are not afraid of bad grades, on the contrary: according to a principle drawn from social psychology, called cognitive dissonance, a disappointed customer to whom the brand returns to correct the situation will be even more loyal than a satisfied customer. A system that will only give its full potential with the arrival (eagerly awaited) of new models. Because, pragmatically, Linda Jackson knows it well: for the motorist, it is first and foremost the product that counts.
1977 Entry to MG Rover.
2005 Chief Financial Officer of Citroën Great Britain then Citroën France.
2010 CEO of Citroën Great Britain.
2014 DG de Citroën
CITROËN IN FIGURES
1.18 million: vehicles sold in 2014. Bestseller: the C4 (375,332 units).
10,000: points of sale (garages and concessions) in 90 countries.
8: World constructors’ championship titles in WRC (rallies).
The PSA program to return to profitability Carlos Tavares’ goal is clear: in 2022, PSA will only operate 26 models, compared to around 50 today. And all will have to be profitable. Its Back in the race plan (“back in the race” in French version) sounds the death knell for coupes, convertibles and other costly variations intended for niche customers. “We must channel the creative flow of design”, he warned last year, for “better use of human and financial resources”. Even if this should not slow down the arrival of new models – we promise five per year – the group will only use two platforms in the future, against seven currently, to develop its ranges. And the recent agreement signed by PSA to set up a factory in Morocco illustrates its desire to increase the share of its vehicles produced abroad to more than 50%, against less than 40% today.
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