Renault will convert Zoe, Micra factory into recycling center


Renault will convert its factory in Flins, France, into a facility for recycling, retrofitting and research by 2024, as the money-losing automaker moves to trim its global production by 20 percent.

The automaker said Wednesday in a news release that it aims to employ 3,000 people at the revamped site by 2030, including staff from its nearby Choisy-le-Roi reconditioning facility, which has a workforce of 260 but is earmarked for closure.

Renault this year announced 4,600 job cuts in France as part of a 2 billion euro ($2.38 billion) cost savings plan. The company posted a record first-half loss of 7.3 billion euros ($8.7 billion).

The Flins factory outside of Paris opened in 1952. It currently produces the Zoe full-electric car and the Nissan Micra hatchback; both small cars are assembled on the same production line and are based on a similar platform.

Part of the production for the previous generation Renault Clio was also on the same line at Flins, but the current generation is now built entirely outside of France. Employees had feared that the plant would close completely under Renault’s latest cost-cutting plan.

Renault did not offer any cost or revenue projections on the plant’s conversion, but CEO Luca de Meo said in a recent interview with Automotive News Europe that some of the activities could potentially be more profitable than auto production.

“I’m confident that we will be able to match our commitment in terms of employment protection,” he said, “and on top of that, we will do something that probably will make more money than simply assembling cars, as we are doing today.”

The transformation of the plant, which Renault calls Re-Factory, will involve four broad areas:

  • Starting in September 2021, the factory will have the capacity to retrofit and recondition more than 45,000 used vehicles a year, with the aim of cutting the turnaround time for such procedures to six days from 21, to reduce the time the car is off the market. Among the technologies on site will be 3D printers to produce parts that are no longer in stock, for collectors or garages. Renault also envisions a service to replace higher-emissions internal combustion power plants with “less carbon-based technologies.” 
  • Another area of activity will focus on EV batteries, including repair of 20,000 packs annually by 2030. The plant will also develop and produce “second life” solutions, such as using older EV batteries as energy storage for nonautomotive applications. Renault will also recycle batteries, including extraction of materials for re-use.
  • A third activity will be general recycling, including the installation of a dismantling line in 2024 that can break down 10,000 vehicles a year. Workers will also refurbish certain components for use a spare parts; Renault says such parts are on average 40 percent less expensive than newly manufactured ones.
  • The final area of activity will be in retraining and research into the circular economy. This will include a business incubator, a center for industrial processes research and partnerships with universities and other institutions.

Under a revised alliance strategy, Renault will take the lead in developing the next generation of Micra for Nissan, although there has been no announcement on a future production site. There has been no announcement of a successor for the Zoe, which will be built at the Flins plant until 2024. Zoe sales have surged this year under tougher emissions standards and enhanced government incentives for zero emissions vehicles.

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