France to Help 15,000 Auto Workers Threatened by Shift to EVs

Source: By William Horobin and Tara Patel, Bloomberg • Posted: Tuesday, April 27, 2021

France unveiled a 50 million-euro ($60.5 million) fund to retrain workers making cast-metal auto parts whose jobs are at risk as the industry shifts to electric vehicles.

“The situation of French foundries is worrying,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Monday at a press conference. “Our production is too small, too scattered, and the market position is not the most promising for the coming years.”

The government will contribute three fifths of the fund and French rival carmakers Renault SA and Stellantis NV will pay for the rest, he said.

The move is a sign of growing anxiety among European governments about the transformation of the auto industry, which employs millions of workers across the region. European carmakers including Renault, Stellantis, Daimler AG and Volkswagen AG have pledged to hasten the transition to electric vehicles, which require fewer workers to produce and will likely render obsolete some plants specialized in internal combustion engines.

“We know there will be difficulties,” Le Maire said. “We are preempting them and doing the maximum to protect workers.”

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France has 355 foundry businesses employing some 30,000 workers, with half of them tied to the automobile industry, the minister said. An EV requires four times less iron alloy than a diesel equivalent.

France holds stakes in both Renault and Stellantis and has long intervened in the industry, most recently pressuring Stellantis to retain some engine production in the country. The government is also under pressure over Renault’s plan to sell a foundry in Brittany.

Separately, the French government also pledged subsidies to speed up the rollout of fast-charging EV stations and extended incentives toward the purchase of EVs to bigger commercial vans. Well over half of the nation’s 368 stations along major highways are planned to be equipped with fast chargers by the end of the year.

A 150 million-euro fund to back research and development in the auto industry will be extended by a year to the end of 2022, Le Maire said.

“We want to put an end to 30 years of off-shoring in the automobile sector,” he said. “This has had a huge social and industrial cost.”