Before his recent appointment as Chairman, ICDP, Eric Le Gendre, who speaks English, French and German, was Director of PSA Peugeot Citroen for 27 years; Export Director, SEAT SA for two years and Foreign Trade Advisor to French Government for seven years(1999 to 2006), among others. As an independent Consultant, Eric is also senior advisor at Relecom and Partners (a company created in 2007 from the desire to add cultural dimension to international project management, to secure its clients’ successes) and member of the Experts Committee at LowCost360 Group. Committed to education, the Auto industry veteran, mentors at the EDHEC Business School Alumnus and tutors Master in Marketing at the ESSEC Business School, France. In this exclusive interview via SKYPE, Le Gendre spoke to Motoring World’s editor-in-chief, FEMI OWOEYE, on ICDP activities, secret behind his career success, challenges of car distribution in today’s business world, projection into what car distributors would be like in next two decades as well as how Nigerian auto distributors could benefit from ICDP and lots more…
Motoring World: You were recently appointed chairman of International Car Distribution programme. Please shed some light on ICPD programmes and activities.
Legendre: Founded in 1994, ICDP is an international research-based organisation focusing on automotive distribution, including the supply and retailing of new and used vehicles, after sales, network structures and operations. Through our research activities, data services, education, events and consulting, we work with vehicle makers, dealers, suppliers, and related organisations to improve the quality and effectiveness of the distribution model. We believe that changing behaviours, new technologies and market pressures will combine to drive new ways of doing business. Though we are based at the Hen House, our rural office near Birmingham in the centre of the UK and also the heart of the ever-changing UK motor industry, our team and research partners operate from a number of locations around the world, including Paris, Frankfurt, Treviso, and Madrid.
Motoring World: As the new chairman of the organization, what difference are you bringing to it and automobile world?
Legendre: I’m bringing my international experience, gained from exporting to 70 markets; my broad and in-depth knowledge of the automotive business.
Motoring World: What are your goals for the ICDP?
Legendre: To cover more markets, increasing from current 21 to 40-50 by 2020. Recently, Tunisia and Hungary joined us. I am looking at attracting more partnership from present 60 to 100 as well as embarking on more research streams, especially in the area of open Mobility, innovation and Benchmarking.
Motoring World: Why and how did you join the automobile industry?
Legendre: I joined the automobile industry by accident. I had a plan to join the air transport industry (Planes are a passion), and at the last time, this plan failed. I sent applications to eight Companies, one of which was PSA Peugeot Citroen, and I was immediately hired. I stayed there 28 years!
Motoring World: In the course of climbing your career ladder, what challenges did you face over the years, and motivating factors have kept you going? Legendre: That’s a good and crucial question. In fact, life is a lot of challenges in a one-simple day: 4 meetings, 15-20 decisions, and some major ones. That’s our daily life. What drives me is passion for success, moving an organization to her best levels of performance
Motoring World: And secret behind your success, despite the challenges?
Legendre: Ensuring mutual commitment, avoiding any mist, stupid task and loss of time; ensuring speed in decision taking as well as continuity and consistency.
Motoring World: Would you recall some challenging tasks you have had to handle over the years?
Legendre: Among the very challenging tasks I had to face in my career included: creating, setting up, organizing, managing and bringing to success Eastern part of Germany; imagining, developing and setting up the commercial strategy for Peugeot in the mid 90’s; Setting up a Volkswagen’s CRM division, in adverse winds 10 years later ; leaving a Director position in a big Group, to create my own company, and bringing it to success with my team and managing a two-digit Export growth at SEAT, with low budgets and a team of 11. Behind all these challenges, at the very end, you’ve only 2 words : passion and commitment !
Motoring World: Your organization is International Car Distribution Programme (ICDP). Are your research, programmes and other activities limited only to car distribution?
Legendre: Yes, it’s already a lot, and keeps all of us very busy! All of us are pure Car Guys (fuel in the blood), and distribution specialists.
Motoring World: What is the scope of the activities of ICDP like?
Legendre: Research and studies, think-tank and benchmarking about car distribution. Our Auto Consumer study is unique; we have a huge data base, we have created and developed our own simulation models. We organize 20 events and workshops per year plus another 12 to 15 Webinars
Motoring World: Multi-brand auto franchising and distribution is common practice in Nigeria. Are there benefits in such practice?
Legendre: I belong to the ones who strongly believe that Multi-brandism is coherent towards customer expectations. It’s important to ensure profitability and limit Manufacturer’s dependence risk /Product, strategy, pricing. And I know a lot of very healthy and highly profitable multi brand dealerships in EU, who delight both customers and deliver top market share
Motoring World: Many auto makers around the world roll out new models almost every year. To you, how would such practice impact on sales and distribution of cars? And from a professional point of view, how healthy do you think such a practice is for the auto industry?
Legendre: It’s a fact that product is crucial in the industry. Therefore, introducing by the number, new models is a necessity, and even a strategic strength. Just observe the brands, which are not so lucky.
Motoring World: Manufacturing and sales of alternative energy-powered vehicles are spreading in Europe, America and even part of Asia. As an industry watcher, what, in your opinion, does the future hold for marketability of petrol and diesel-powered vehicles?
Legendre: There’ll still be sales of petrol and diesel vehicles in the world, due to the lack of plug-in capacity, and cost of EVs. But one point is sure: both hybrid & EV’s vehicle market will grow, anywhere, progressively, even in Africa.
Motoring World: Nigeria, a population of almost 200 million, is an auto-using and loving nation. Also, most auto manufacturers are represented there. How could Nigerian auto distributors benefit from your programme?
Legendre: First, to speak honestly, I’ve never been in your great country. I wish I’ll very soon. How could Nigerian auto distributors benefit from our programme? In many ways, the same as American, European or Asian Dealer groups. We already have big Turkish and a huge Tunisian Groups, and those markets are rather similar to Nigeria. We provide benchmarking, data, many studies, education, networking events. And I’m sure that this could also be bilateral: perhaps could we export out of Nigeria some very good practices, let’s see and try.
Motoring World: What personal advice would you offer to car dealers and distributors in a developing economy like Nigeria?
Legendre: Join us!
Motoring World: At certain point in near future, would you be willing to extend activities of ICDP to Nigeria?
Legendre: Yes, for sure. We are ready. I’ve already had some contacts in your Market. We are in discussions with a few Nigerian Automotive parties. But I have to ensure confidentiality. And please, have a look at our website, you’d see that it is translated in 81 languages, among which are English, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba
Motoring World: The impression we have is that you are a very busy man and you travel a lot. How do you manage your career with family life?
Legendre: That’s true, it’s a key aspect. I travel a lot, being out of home for periods up to 10 days. And moving quite often (eight times in 30 years) including five moves in three countries as an expatriate. I missed my family for years, travelling permanently from Mexico to Helsinki, from Singapore to Casablanca. I’m very lucky to have a great wife, who accepted to move with me eight times with the children. She speaks many languages, and before we married, she already used to live in Asia and Africa.
Motoring World: Please tell us more about your family, educational and professional background.
Legendre: I was born1955 in Paris obtained a Masters degree from EDHEC Business School in 1980 and in 2007, Masters in Advanced General management from EMLYON Business School, Centre de Recherches et d’études des Chefs d’Entreprise (CRA). I’m married, with two children, aged 14 and 16
Motoring World: How do you relax?
Legendre: In my Countryside old house, in Gers, SW France, a very lovely area, so beautiful that it is called the French Tuscany. I do gardening, and having our best friends & families there, we have BBQ (barbecue) at the pool, good food, French wine, that’s Relaxing times.
Motoring World: What other future plans have you and what would you like to be remembered for?
Legendre: Grow ICDP in both Africa and Asia. Provide an excellent an affordable expertise to the industry. Despite my grey hairs, I feel still too young to be busy with my image!
Motoring World: What would you like to be remembered for?
Legendre: A trustable, helpful and lovely husband, as well as a good reliable Dad!