At every turn, the sharp click of the turn signal breaks the silence. The car whizzes along the cobblestones of Paris. But the engine does not hum. He purrs. Driving that morning Stephane Wimez cross the city in an electric 2CV. This is one of the cars that 70 employees repair in the center of Provence.
Because he has been with his partner for almost ten years Julien Wagnerhe is a pilot Mehari Club of Cassis, an SME that produces spare parts and restores 2CVs, Méharis and Dyanes thanks to molds bought from Citroën by three passionate brothers. There would be 250,000 on the roads of Europe!
Now the company is also turning them into a zero-emission car using a technology called Retrofit, which replaces the heat engine with an electric motor. At the risk of offending purveyors, Stephane Wimez claims this: “Refurbishing allows us to restore vehicles while creating local jobs in a sustainable dynamic,” he says with a good-natured smile.
At 51, the enthusiastic, instinctive boss who co-founded Aire (the Electrical Supply Industry Association) is not alone in thinking so: The state has just allocated €20 million to boost the practice.
It passes through the fields without breaking the eggs
In 1938, it is enough to revive the “dedeuche”, designed to lure the French into the countryside: the suspension of these small vehicles was to make it possible to cross a field with a basket of eggs without breaking a single one. At the beginning of the war, 250 cars were born… All but four will be destroyed, camouflaged, ten years old, in attics.
2 Stephane Wimez comes alive when talking about CV. He also sits in the skai seats, regional vice president of the Living Heritage Companies, marking the cane as a gear lever…
Because this boss, who was born in Quebec and grew up in Africa with his father’s transfers at Schell and then at Veolia, is first and foremost a “passionate car”, says his partner Julien Wagner, who also mixes it with a “commercial profile”. , a sense of taste and market for relationships”.
Auto Journal by heart
As a child, he knew by heart the technical sheets of “Automatic Magazine”. In Cameroon, his mother forced him to drive before he was old enough to drive. In the summer, in the fields of the North, near Valencienne, he rode his grandfather’s tractor. And how many Porsche races did he attend as a teenager with his father on his arm, the smell of petrol and the screeching of engines?
Unsurprisingly, after leaving Lille ESC, he got an internship in the industry. In Fiat. In 1995, Necotrans had just bought Renault’s local subsidiary and sent it to Senegal at VSNE. It will then clear the African soil for four years to acquire the NCT Trading hub, which is looking to expand its presence into Algeria. “It was a great school of life, human relations and business,” he says.
But soon he decides to professionalize his resume with a builder. Renault hired him in 2001. Kitesurfing for six years, the snowmobile enthusiast father of two rose through the ranks of the diamond firm, eventually coordinating the group’s marketing in Italy. Bernard Khayot, who wanted to conquer Africa, poached him before his distribution company.
In 2013, the elderly founders of Méhari Club de Cassis were looking for a buyer. Like him, his high school friend Julien Wagner, who loves cars and is an investor, sees the file go through. When they discover an SME with 40 employees and a solid turnover of 11 million euros, they fall in love. Since then, the company has shown unabashed health.
In early November to announce the acquisition of its main competitor, the Dutch Burton Car Company. “We were kind of hostile brothers,” admits Stefan Wimez, who are now at each other’s head hundred employees for a turnover of 25 million euros. We will keep two separate brands because each has its own culture and customers. However, this acquisition elevates us to the leadership position in this niche market and offers us growth prospects. In addition, there is a real synergy in the production of parts.” By decision, business takes the road.