December 6, 2019

Executive Digest rubric – To drive big brands

Most of his career was directed in the automotive industry, where he assumed different leadership positions. Carlos Gomes has been serving as vice-president of the PSA group in China since 2018, the beginning of the first and biggest crisis in the Chinese market in the last 25 years.

A market five or six times larger than the market he previously led and the largest in the industry. Carlos Gomes went from the operation in Latin American countries, where he was since 2010, to the commands in China. Prior to PSA Peugeot Citroen, he joined the Fiat Group in 1998, having been chairman of Fiat France, Spain and the Southern Europe region for 12 years. But his career began in 1988 at Citroen Portugal. Subsequently, he assumed prominent positions at Renault.

He managed to reverse years of losses in France and Latin America, led PSA’s largest investment plan in Brazil, took PSA in Latin America from a builder that had accumulated negative results year after year and improved the performance of the group’s brands – Peugeot, Citroen, Opel and DS – in Asia. By 2018, he was stepping on China. Once he arrived, it was necessary to respond quickly to the context. The measures taken were difficult but he made the market achieve better results. Now it has new multi-energy platforms that offer the possibility of building thermal or LEV cars in the same factory and on the same line, reducing investment costs and improving the response in terms of distribution. The visible face of the strategy is the new electric models with the Peugeot 208 and DS3 Cross-back E-tense and soon the new generation of hybrids that will offer the 3008, 508, DS7 and Citroen C5 Aircross that will make Group PSA fully respond to the new regulations without paying penalties and increasing the advantage.


He is one of the Portuguese deans of the industry, so it is natural to hear him say that the car of the future will be “exciting”. At 54, he is confident about the transformation of the automotive industry and its future.

You have spent most of your career in the automotive industry and more particularly at Renault and Fiat, where he held various management positions. What are the main lessons?
Adaptability, a taboo-free mindset and flawless execution ability are indispensable tools in the automotive business. But if I had to select a core theme, it would undoubtedly be the building of talent without which an executive simply does not exist. Besides, I love people and I am delighted to see talented people grow and avenge, nothing gives me more satisfaction.

But will the future of the car be electric or connected?
Both, in addition to these two technological disruptions I would add autonomous driving that will come in force, adding even more interest to the sector.

What dou you perspective as the big changes in the sector?
In fact, they are growing the mix of Light Emission Vehicles, the adoption of connectivity and personal assistant on-board, and finally the autonomous driving technology that will once again change paradigms, enabling more intensive car use and creation of new business.

What about the Chinese workers?
Diligent, with strong attention to detail and able to work as a team. Very good in industrial environment and with strong standardization, greater difficulty in environments of accelerated change or need of affirmation of the individual versus the group.

What should be demystified in the automotive industry?
The most obvious is the profitability of the sector with most people thinking that car companies make unusual profits. Nothing is wrong, as the sector has average margins of around 5%, which for a sector involving investments that count for billions and high risk is very little. Maybe that’s why companies with almost unlimited cash like Google or Apple have abandoned their car projects.

Is Peugeot a brand of classics or modernity?
Only then can a brand that is more than 200 years old and has in history classics such as the 504 or 205 can continue to have successes that repeat as the current SUV 3008 and 5008 and present the brand new 208 with its version, which will undoubtedly be a commercial success.

What is the brand secret?
The ability to combine excitement and reason through unique design, unique handling and a cockpit design that sets it apart from its competitors. The brand new claim “Unboring the future” serves as a guideline for the work of brand teams. Inside the PSA Group,  mythical brands such as Citroen and Opel, or the new premium DS brand also feature many fascinating models.

What is your role as a Portuguese Diaspora Counselor in the world?
Contributing to Portugal’s affirmation and confirmation as a country, culture and people, are unique and more than sufficient motivations. Getting to know Portugal and its multiple dimensions in an increasingly competitive and fast-paced world is an endless pleasure.

By Executive Digest, December 2019