In 1980 Leyland Australia signed a deal with Automobiles Peugeot to assemble cars in low volume, at an assembly plant we operated at Enfield in Sydney, which was vastly under-utilised. It was the last remaining remnant of the manufacturing giant which shut in 1972.
The facility assembled Land Rovers, Minis, Mini Mokes, and a few Leyland trucks, but there was an excess of unused capacity.
As Peugeot had not participated in the Australian market since an acrimonious breakup of a joint sales and marketing agreement with Renault Australia in 1978, it was keen to maintain a presence in the the country, which it had enjoyed since victory for a Peugeot 203 in the first Redex Round Australia Trial in 1953.
The Leyland Australia MD and Board members who signed the deal with Peugeot were not keen to make multiple trips to Paris, so it often fell to me to represent Leyland Australia on many occasions - to push for specification change, pricing adjustments, and continued (and increased) marketing resources.
In fact, as my primary role in my own meetings was focused on issues concerning public relations, I think my French counterparts thought it a bit amusing to be having commercial discussions ‘with a PR guy’.
Nonetheless we managed well, and to their great credit, and my appreciation, all our business discussions in Peugeot’s Paris HQ at 75 Avenue de la Grand Armée, were conducted in English.
The head of public relations for Peugeot was a tough, no-nonsense operator called Corrado Provera.
He had a fearsome reputation for bringing his staff close to tears at times with withering dismissals of various ideas and projects, which he considered ill thought-out, impractical or represented poor value for money.
Although we met amicably many times at European motor shows, and meetings in Paris, he thought it was unacceptable that I carry responsibilities for both commercial and PR matters; but gradually I was able to win his confidence and respect.
|JC & Corrado - Geneva 1984|
He told me when we first met in Geneva in 1982, that he did not ‘have any time’ for part-time PR people – was I a PR professional? Or a marketing ‘wanker’? (not sure what the French translation is)
So, when the commercial relationship between Automobiles Peugeot and JRA Limited ended, I was delighted to receive this personal note from him, which was confirmation that I had ‘won my spurs’ with Corrado, represents my personal achievment, and it’s a piece of memorabilia I treasure.