“You have to develop your competitive advantage”: Alison Jones of Stellantis | Automobile industry

After talking for about an hour about the car industry and her three years at the helm of Stellantis in the UK, Alison Jones realizes that she hasn’t mentioned the small matter of the giant merger between Peugeot and Fiat Chrysler which created the company.

“Yes, we did that last year too. I forgot,” she says with a laugh, sitting in the conference room of one of Stellantis’ technical centers in Coventry.

It shows just how badly she and other carmaker bosses in the UK have had on their plate. There was Brexit which took up much of 2019, she says, a pandemic in 2020 and unprecedented shortages of key computer chips in 2021, all of which should have been defining issues for the decade.

Yet when people think back to what the 2020s have meant for the auto industry, the transition to electric vehicles will likely be seen as the dominant trend.

“It’s the way we are now,” Jones says. “You are constantly looking to adapt to the next change, find your competitive advantage and develop your competitive advantage.”

The Stellantis office in Coventry (it still bears the PSA logo at the top of its exterior) is airy and pleasant on a sunny afternoon, but it’s also nearly empty, a reminder of the other changes the pandemic has brought about.


resume

Age 53

Family Married to Nic, three adult children in their early twenties: two have recently finished university, and the third is doing a year of internship before a final year of studies.

Education Levels A to Higher School in Wootton, Bedfordshire, then evening classes for accountancy qualifications and an equivalent degree at the Chartered Management Institute.

Pay “I’m not going to answer that!” Stellantis declined to identify which subsidiary employs him.

Last holidays Antigua, in the Caribbean, with her family to celebrate her husband’s 60th birthday.

The best advice she ever received”Persevere.”

Biggest Career Mistake Not doing the right preparation for a job interview. “It sticks with me.”

Word that she abuses “Fantastic.”

how she relaxes Spending time with family and walking. “I’m stomping,” she said. “You have to get out into the fresh air.”


During maintenance, we both wear masks, and there are always one-way systems around the building, following the same protocols as in the company workshops.

Jones’ responsibilities have grown in line with the parent company’s ambitions. She joined the ancestor of Stellantis, the PSA group, in February 2019 to take over the British general management of the Peugeot, Citroën and DS brands, and to finalize the integration of Vauxhall/Opel, acquired in 2017. Then, last January, she became general manager. for Stellantis in the UK, adding oversight of brands such as Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Jeep following PSA’s merger with Fiat Chrysler.

Then, at the end of 2021, the 82-year-old British lobby group the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) made Jones its first female president – ​​decades late according to many in the industry. His is a non-executive role, but carries political clout as a champion of Britain’s car industry. “It was a proud moment,” she says.

However, Jones’ career story is not one of a lifelong love for the automotive industry. “I didn’t know what I wanted to be,” she says. She had “humble beginnings”, with her father being a “worker farmer, gentleman-farmer” and her mother a part-time salesman. His first job after high school in 1986 was with a television rental company, where a manager suggested he continue his education for a degree in accounting.

Her first contact with the car industry was when she joined a Volkswagen finance team in Milton Keynes, but soon moved on to a scientific instrument business in Cambridge, where she worked on export ‘dual-use’ products – items that can be used by civilians but could also be reused for the military. She then worked in a fleet management role before returning to Volkswagen.

She ended up staying with the automaker for 21 years, rising from sales manager for Audi to after-sales service manager for VW’s five mainstream brands (VW cars and vans, Audi, Seat and Skoda) across 800 locations. UK.

The car sales business is going through a period of massive upheaval, but Jones believes there will always be a place for the car showroom – for people to make a purchase and for a place to go to get some help after the sale is over.

She acknowledges that the industry has long been very male-dominated and lists the ways her company is committed to diversity. Then, spontaneously, she details her aversion to equal representation quotas, a measure that some activists see as a useful way to force companies to improve.

“I hate quotas for women,” she says. “You should never get a job based on your credibility and your ability to do that job.”

Stellantis was born from the merger of Peugeot and Fiat Chrysler. Photo: Massimo Pinca/Reuters

His priority in the role of SMMT is to keep up the pressure on the government to do its part to accelerate the switchover. The industry is preparing to slow vehicle sales as interest rates and the cost of living rise.

The government cut subsidies for battery cars twice in 2021. Compared to the lavish aid offered by other European governments, this was “disappointing”, says Jones, his frustration evident even behind a mask. EU industry also benefits from energy subsidies that are lacking in the UK.

Another government decision she regretted was the ban on all all-petrol and diesel cars after 2030, announced in November 2020. The move was called “brutal” by Jones’ group boss Carlos Tavares, who hinted that it could threaten Stellantis’ Vauxhall factory in Ellesmere. Harbor.

The factory escaped the ax by investing in electric vans, but Jones points out the industry is still flying blind, with no indication of which hybrids will be allowed for five years after 2030.

“When you move a date forward, you’re actually telling customers they’ll have to pay sooner,” she says.

Installing charging points across the country is another part of the puzzle where the government needs to up its game. Buyers want electric cars, but chargers need to be so widely available that people no longer worry, says Jones.

“Can I do this when I come home in the pouring rain on a Sunday night with no charge, my kids in the back of the car and I have to go to work in the morning?” she says. “If you can answer this question, you have a solution.”

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