Spotlight will find low-key Tavares as he takes over new empire at Stellantis

Bloomberg News spoke with half a dozen people who have worked closely with Tavares. They describe him as ultra-competitive with a dogged attention to detail. He doesn’t tolerate meetings starting late or dragging on and asks underlings to make presentations in five slides or less.

Tavares shuns the annual gathering of business elite that Ghosn frequented in Davos, Switzerland, and shows up to glitzy car shows in scuffed-up shoes. He often spends weekends tinkering on cars at his suburban Paris home.

As head of Stellantis, he’ll answer to dynastic shareholders — the Agnellis, led by Chairman John Elkann, as well as the Peugeots — and politics will play an outsize role. The French state will retain a stake in the merged company, and Italy’s deputy economy minister has hinted its government may acquire a shareholding as well.

PSA’s outgoing Chairman Louis Gallois has said that since Tavares’s roots are in Portugal, where he owns a vineyard and small vintage-car business, he’ll be an effective neutral arbiter.

Stellantis will be an amalgam of model lines with a strong presence in North America’s lucrative truck and SUV segments, thanks to Fiat Chrysler’s Ram and Jeep divisions. PSA’s revitalized Peugeot and Citroen brands also have excelled in Europe and are the envy of Renault.

Yet Stellantis won’t have much of a foothold in the luxury-car business. The Alfa Romeo and Maserati lines are struggling and PSA’s DS is tiny. Fiat Chrysler and PSA also have stumbled in China’s vast auto market.

“Tavares knows that if the Chinese market is a medium- or long-term goal, Europe is right now Stellantis’ most compelling challenge,” said Carlo Alberto Carnevale Maffe, a professor at Bocconi University in Milan. “He needs to act by cutting costs, recovering profitability and investing in a range of technologies.”

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