Portraits

The force of the autonomy and the network

Eric Roussel has resided in South Korea now for 3 years, where he has been busy supervising the development of one of Renault’s international projects. He is a totally dedicated car enthusiast and has carried out almost his entire career with Renault.

The force of the autonomy and the network

Eric Roussel enrolled at UTC following the advice of one of his lycée teachers, who spoke about this new engineering school with its special statutes, inspired as it was by similar American models. “We didn’t have the Internet back in the 1970s! We did not have much of a clue as to the specialties and the engineering schools in general, compared to young people today,” he stresses. Of his UTC days, he recalls the original teaching methods and contents and also how to pull through any situation, almost, when looking for solutions. “If I think of all the UTC graduates I have met, more than 75% have chosen to move away from beaten tracks”, he feels.

“A kid’s dream!” 

With his UTC diploma in mechanical engineering, Eric Roussel first worked for 4 years in developing new materials for the weapons industry (ground based). Then he moved to Renault, joining a business unit specialized in small commercial vans, where he stayed for 10 years. “I was an automobile architect, an orchestra conductor designing and launching the Kangoo van and Trafic 2. When you like cars the way I do, it becomes a passion: we used to draw the pre-project drafts scale 1 on a drawing table as big as a ping-pong table. A kid’s dream!” This small business unit – dynamic and reactive – corresponded well to Eric Roussel, whose credo was to avoid being bored at any time and at all costs. Following this rich experience, Eric was invited by Carlos Tavares – who today is at the head of PSA - to become project manager for the Megane 2 model. So from drawing board to mass production, Eric followed Megane cabriolet, the Megane break and the Megane Sedan. “Having had the privilege of working alongside people like Carlos Tavares, who at the time was the Director for the Megane 2 model, was a very rich and rewarding experience. They are marvellous managers who possess exceptional levels of intelligence and capacity to analyse situations”.

Round the world 

Eric Roussel then felt the urge to travel. In 2004, when his 3 cars were on the production lines, the pressure dropped a bit and this called for ‘new horizons’. So off to Mexico for 3 years as Quality Assessment Director for North Latin America. He was responsible for the manufacturing processes of the Renault factory units in Mexico (a Nissan unit) and for Marketing, Sales and Service Quality in Columbia. “This was a new organization structure at Renault, with the creation of a Quality Director for each major region in the world. I went to the city of Medellin one week every month: the Columbians are dynamic, happy smiling people and efficient. It was a true joy to work with them, just like the Turks with whom I had worked on the Megane project, plus a ‘Latino’ touch! adds Eric Roussel. After that Eric was appointed Deputy Chief Engineer for the Logan model (for the African and Asian regions) and he stayed in that position for 5 years. His job consisted of assuring “second industrialization” changes, viz., the small but necessary adjustments needed to adapt to the countries where the models are marketed, and to find local suppliers for parts and finally to manage the project development up to and including mass production launch. “I went to Russia, Iran, Morocco, South Africa … I had to travel a lot and frequently; over those years, I was rarely in my office and almost always “on the road”! Eric is the sort of person who hates seeing each day like the one before. In the course of his travels, Eric met with numerous, very interesting people. “Their levels of skills is something we ignore in France”.

Economic constraints 

For the past 6 months he has been living in Korea and Eric feels he has become totally illiterate. "Signs in English are few and far between! I managed to buy some orange juice, but only because there was a picture on the pack. This is quite a disturbing experience", adds Deric with a smile. In Korea, he is now Deputy Director for the preparation of a new vehicle that will be assembled in 2 Asian factory units. In South Korea, he found a total 'foreign' atmosphere but every but as friendly as in Mexico and infinitely safer. "The lockers where the workers leave their laptops when they go for lunch are not locked. This conducive to having pleasant working conditions. In the capital Seoul, everything is so clean and carefully maintained. The city spreads out for miles between mountain ranges. You only need to travel a few miles and you find a path heading up into the hills". The advice Eric now hands down to his children is to learn how to build and maintain a network - which he himself thinks he cannot do now. For students who want to get into the automobile business sectors, Eric Roussel underscores that there are now strong economic constraints with top priority. "The economic pressure is such that we are led to reasoning to the nearest 10 cents when we design a car. Technically speaking, it is a marvellous, challenging world of its own! "

Bio-Notes:

  • 1977: Admission UTC 
  • 1983: Graduate Mechanical Engineering, MIT (Cambridge, USA) 
  • 1983: Cooperation in Algeria – Oran 
  • 1985: Head of the materials laboratory at AMX-APX GIAT 
  • 1989: Automobile Designer IDVU Groupe Renault 
  • 1999: Project Manager for the Mégane II line (cabriolet/break/sedan) 
  • 2005: Director Quality Assurance North Latin America, based in Mexico City 
  • 2008: Deputy Chief Engineer ‘line entry’ for various industrialization projects in Asia and Africa 
  • 2013 to date: Deputy Programme Director, based in Korea