The automotive sector is an electrical resistance in the region

The beginning of a new era? 2023 should mark the revival of the automotive industry in Hauts-de-France, the only region in France to benefit from the creation of gigafactories, which will produce electric batteries for the cars of the future. 20 minutes make the point.

Three gigafactories that changed everything

For three years, good news has followed each other. In September 2020, the PSA/Opel and Total/Saft consortium officially approved the creation of an ACC (Automotive Cell Company) in Douvrin, Pas-de-Calais and Kaiserslautern, Germany. The start of production is planned for the second half of 2023. It should reach full capacity by 2030, supplying 1 million electric cars a year, i.e. more than 10% of the potential European market.

The following year, in 2021, it was the Chinese company AESC-Envision, Renault’s supplier, who requested to install a pole in the northern city of Douai in 2024. Finally, in February last year, Grenoble start-up Verkor, backed by Renault, Schneider Electric and Arkema, also announced that it had chosen Dunkirk in the North to produce low-carbon battery cells from 2025. It is planned to start the construction of the plant on the 150-hectare area this year after the public consultation process.

“This is a sign that the automotive industry still has a bright future in the area,” says Luc Messien, chief representative of the Regional Automotive Industry Association (Aria). Many envied us these huge factories, but we fought for it. There was a lot of preparation and waiting. In particular, in 2016, we went on a mission in Japan on this topic. »

Potential for at least 10,000 jobs

The gigas factories to be opened in Douvrin, Douai and Dunkirk represent a potential of around 10,000 jobs. “Our ambition is to attract women to these new professions, which will also include laboratory tasks,” emphasizes Luc Messien. According to Aria, “€25 million has already been allocated to training and attraction for these gigafactories through a call for expressions of interest in the skills and professions of the future called Electro”.

It is now possible to apply for this industrial repair work. For example, in Douai, a group of enterprises (Greta) has started some training courses in battery work in cooperation with the Hauts-de-France region. The partnership was made concrete by a joint visit to the site on Thursday by Laurent Rigaud and Patrice Le Guyader, Vice President in charge of Training at AESC Envision, which oversees Renault’s future Electric Pole.

Uncertain future or snowball effect?

In 2005, at the peak of car production in the region, about one million cars were produced annually. “In 2022, we are far from that. However, with a production of 700,000 [véhicules], we are progressing compared to previous years”, assures Luc Messien. Nevertheless, France’s first region (about a third of the cars produced in the country) is facing difficulties.

Luc Messien admits: “Not long ago, there were a lot of fears about internal combustion engines, because we are the region with the most production. The short term is still complicated. Many companies that are still suffering in this sector should stop being there when the lights come on. »

According to the head of Aria, “there is an interest in concentration, so one factory attracts another.” “An ecosystem built around battery manufacturing will revitalize the region,” he says. So in October, a possible fourth plant was announced, this time for battery separators. Japan’s Wscope, linked to France’s Alteo, is to invest 600 million euros. The exact location in the Hauts-de-France should be determined in a few months.

Between 2019 and 2021, 17 companies with foreign capital and 4 companies with French capital invested in the region. However, especially when talking about dependence on China, Luc Messien wants to be pragmatic: “The know-how is in China. And I prefer Chinese companies that produce with our workers. »

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