Former PSA Group President Jacques Calvet died Friday, April 10, at the age of 88. The recovery of the manufacturer in the 1980s is to the credit of this well-known boss far beyond just business circles.
Profile of a finance man
Born on September 19, 1931 in Boulogne-Billancourt, Jacques Calvet graduated from the Faculty of Law, from the Institute of Political Studies in Paris and studied between 1955 and 1957 – at the same time as Edouard Balladur – national administration. Upon leaving, he joined the Court of Auditors, then worked, from 1959, on behalf of the cabinet of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. He headed the latter’s cabinet, then Minister of Economy and Finance from 1969 to 1974.
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After the presidential election, Jacques Calvet joined the BNP, of which he became managing director in 1976 then president from 1979. François Mitterrand’s victory in 1981 and the nationalization of the bank signaled his departure from the banking sector, to arrive at Peugeot Citroën a year later.
Thirteen-year reign for the 205
The group was then in bad shape, suffering from the 1978 takeover of Chrysler Europe (the Talbot brand) launched by its boss, Jean-Paul Parayre, while the effects of the second oil shock were raging. In 1983, France began a turn towards budgetary austerity. That same year, on February 24, the first specimen of a toy car set to become a star came out of a Mulhouse factory.
The 205, “sacred number” as the advertising says, is becoming a very popular success, especially for its GTI sports versions or its victories at the Paris-Dakar. Launched just before Jacques Calvet took over the presidency of the group in 1984, it symbolizes its recovery. It will be produced for fifteen years and will sell more than five million copies.
The missed opportunity to produce Space
Jacques Calvet, who judges himself ” conservative “, However renounces to engage Peugeot in the production of Espace, a car with strange volumes for the time, which Matra submits to it. The latter will ring the door of Renault, which will accept the project with definite success.
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Jacques Calvet never ceases, throughout his mandate, to track down the advantages which would benefit the Régie, still 100% public, while he himself struggles to convince the Peugeot family, not always united, to carry out capital increases.
Ephemeral media success
Against the backdrop of a clash between the right and the left over the economic policy to be pursued, the improvement in the financial situation of Peugeot Citroën, at the cost of clear cuts in the workforce, gave Jacques Calvet the spotlight of the media scene, by being invited to “The Hour of Truth” in October 1988.
His outspokenness hit the target and won over the audience, but a year later he had to face popular retribution after The chained Duck revealed its tax sheet, which attests to the strong increase of its incomes. Jacques Calvet will eventually lose his legal battle, which has gone up to the European Court of Human Rights, which rules in favor of freedom of expression.
Politics tempts him, but he quickly gives up
The “big bourgeois” side of the CEO, inevitably dressed in a three-piece suit, is then regularly mocked, until he gets his latex puppet at “Guignols de l’Ininfo”, the satirical show on Canal Plus. Opposed to the Maastricht Treaty, the “giscardian” hiss of his phrasing contributes to depicting him as a tireless defender of the diesel engine for his “ouatures” against the high-end German, which remains superior to the large French sedans, or faced with the threat Japanese manufacturers (the establishment of a Toyota factory in Valenciennes dates from the 1990s, note).
Jacques Calvet hands over to Jean-Martin Folz in 1997. He is tempted by a political adventure, but he finally gives up running for the RPR’s nomination for the legislative elections, judging that he does not have the qualities required for l political activity. He would then take on the role of external advisor to companies such as Société Générale, the André group and Galeries Lafayette.