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Ariel Montenegro (1)

COLOMBIA - Industry

Ariel Montenegro

President and Managing Director, Renault-Sofasa

Bio

He was born in Cordoba, Argentina, in 1986. He is a Mechanical Engineer from the National Technological University of Argentina, with studies at the Renault Technical Institute, a school owned by the Renault Foundation. He joined Renault Argentina as an apprentice in 2005. From 2005 to 2014 he worked in Industrial Logistics, Supply Chain and Finance (ACO). In 2015 he became Industrial Logistics Manager in Argentina. In 2017 he held the Industrial Performance position to support FSI’s plant transformation. He moved to Brazil as Executive Secretary for the Americas Region, and then came to France, in the same position, to hold the Sales Management and Regions. In 2020, he became Executive Director working close to Luca de Meo in the development and execution of the ‘Renaulution’ strategic plan. Since February 1, 2022, he has been President and Chief Commercial Officer of RENAULT-Sofasa, Colombia.

"Renault is undoubtedly the most quintessential Colombian automotive brand in the country, with a rich history spanning generations of Colombian families."
TBY talks to Ariel Montenegro, President and Managing Director of Renault-Sofasa, about key milestones, the company’s environmental impact, and the rise of electric vehicles.
What have been some of the company’s key milestones during its 50 years in Colombia, and what have been some of its recent developments?

Renault is undoubtedly the most quintessential Colombian automotive brand in the country, with a rich history spanning generations of Colombian families. Despite its French roots, Renault has become a true Colombian brand, deeply entrenched in the local automotive industry. As an industrial and commercial leader in Colombia for the past five years, Renault has played a significant role in democratizing the automotive industry for Colombians. Our journey started with the R4, a faithful companion to many Colombians, and we have continued to build new icons with the likes of Twingo and Clio. Today, I am proud to say that Duster has emerged as the new icon in the Colombian market. Not only was it the best-selling car in Colombia in 2022, but Duster was also the most exported vehicle, making Renault-Sofasa the country’s top exporter of high-tech products. In addition to leading in car sales, we have also established ourselves as the number-one brand in utility vehicles, including commercial vehicles, for the first time in 54 years. This consolidation of leadership is a testament to Renault’s unwavering commitment to the Colombian market and its people.

How is Renault-Sofasa working to reduce its environmental impact, and what specific initiatives is the company taking in Colombia to promote sustainable mobility?

Colombian people are environmentally conscious, and as a local company with French roots, we have been actively working on our corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy. Our efforts here are focused on three main areas: the environment, safety, and inclusion. In terms of the environment, we recognize our responsibility as a player in the transportation and mobility industry to work toward achieving net zero emissions. We are committed to bringing technology to the Colombian market and being a part of the energy transition. We also promote environmental conservation through programs such as the Renault Foundation in Colombia, which focuses on reforestation efforts around Bogotá. Through this program, we work with women who are responsible for their homes and economies, supporting the development and protection of forest areas that have been impacted by contamination in the past years. Safety is another key area of focus for us, and as the best-selling automotive brand in the market, we understand our role in promoting safe behaviors on the road. We have a program called La Calle y Yo, where we educate young students as well as their teachers on how to be responsible pedestrians, bikers, and drivers. Inclusion is also a core aspect of our CSR efforts. We believe that the automotive industry can contribute to social progress by providing high-quality jobs and opportunities for low-income families. We have a university scholarship program that supports 29 students, who may not have had the opportunity to pursue higher education otherwise. We also promote women in STEM careers, both within our company and in the industry as a whole. In Colombia, 38% of our managers are women, which is a significant accomplishment in our industry. We also have mentoring programs to encourage young female engineers to join the automotive industry. For us, CSR is not just a requirement but is ingrained in the company’s DNA. Renault has a strong history of being a social company, caring for the families and people around our plants, and our CSR efforts are a reflection of our commitment to the well-being of our communities and the environment.

What competitive advantages can a French company such as Renault-Sofasa bring to Colombia?

Renault-Sofasa is a local subsidiary of an international company, with strong roots in Colombia. While Renault has been a part of the company’s history at varying ownership levels, being associated with Renault brings access to the latest technology and mobility trends in the Colombian market, making it a valuable asset. In fact, the Renault brand holds the highest market share in Colombia, even surpassing that in France. This makes Renault-Sofasa feel like a truly Colombian brand with French roots, benefiting from both global expertise and local leadership. Renault-Sofasa is well-adapted to the Colombian market, with products tailored to the country’s topography. The passion and pride of the people working at Renault Colombia are reflected in the high performance of the plant, which was ranked last year as the top-performing Renault plant worldwide in terms of quality, performance, cost, and safety for workers. This passion translates into how vehicles are produced, sold, and serviced, with a strong focus on customer satisfaction. Renault in Colombia is known for its dedication to excellence and customer care, which are the hallmarks of its success.

How is Renault Sofasa adapting to the rise of electric and autonomous vehicles, and what steps is the company taking to remain competitive?

The transportation industry faces significant challenges, with the energy transition and evolving consumer behaviors becoming the biggest drivers of change in the sector. The automotive industry has the unique ability to democratize technology and drive continuous improvement. It also prioritizes high levels of quality and perfection, as these technologies are put in the hands of everyday consumers. The energy transition in the automotive industry is not limited to just the sector itself, but also has implications for other industries such as heavy transportation and airplanes, making it a powerful driver of technological advancement across multiple sectors. In Colombia, Renault has been a pioneer in bringing electric vehicles (EVs) to the market since 2015. In the coming year, Renault plans to launch four new EVs in Colombia, along with charging solutions including home charging and a charging network through its dealer network, with coverage in over 21 cities and free charging stations for Renault EV customers. This effort aims to democratize access to electric mobility in the country; however, electric mobility is not the only solution for reducing emissions.. In Latin America, and specifically in Colombia, the focus is on finding solutions that are adapted to the local context, including improving thermal engines and exploring alternative technologies such as synthetic fuels with a neutral carbon cycle. Renault aims to promote technologies that are affordable, practical, and aligned with the country’s conditions and consumer behaviors, rather than solely relying on regulations driving electric mobility, as is the case in Europe.

What can we expect from Renault-Sofasa in 2023 and the coming year?

We are committed to supporting the development of mobility in Colombia, not only from a commercial perspective but also from an industrial standpoint. As part of this commitment, we are currently working on a new project for our plant. We recently reaffirmed with the government our strong intention to invest in a new multi-energy platform, which would allow us to produce in the near future not only traditional combustion engine vehicles but also hybrid or EVs, in response to the growing demand for sustainable transportation in the market. This multi-energy platform is not limited to Colombia alone, as we are considering to export 60% of the production volume of this new car to other countries in Latin America. Our aim is to establish Colombia as an export hub for the region. We believe that the future of the automotive industry in Colombia requires a transformation of our plant to produce vehicles not only for the domestic market but also for international markets. While the automotive market in Colombia currently ranks fourth in the region, behind Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina, we recognize the need to promote local industry and export opportunities to further develop the auto parts manufacturing network in the country.

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