FRANKFURT French car maker Renault (RENA.PA) is considering the complete closure of factories because of the dire state of the European automobile market, the company's chief operating officer was quoted as saying on Sunday.
"We will see. We are currently talking to the unions and explaining to them how big the gaps are in our competitiveness," Carlos Tavares told German trade newspaper Automobilwoche.
"We have a competitiveness problem in western Europe and France."
The European market's prolonged decline is even starting to make previously impervious car makers, such as Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE), feel vulnerable. "We're bracing for more negative surprises in 2013, perhaps also in 2014," Christian Klingler, VW's sales chief, said at the Paris auto show last week.
Tavares pointed out that Renault's cooperation with Nissan (7201.T) had given the company hard data on productivity levels at Nissan factories in Sunderland in Britain and Barcelona in Spain.
"These factories are really top," the Renault CEO said, adding that discussions were under way on whether Nissan could make production capacity available to Renault.
"That is one possibility," Tavares said.
A Renault spokeswoman declined to comment on the report, but Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said on Friday that the French car maker could disappear "in its current form" if it is unable to be competitive in its home market.
However, Ghosn also said that Renault had no plans at this stage to cut jobs in France.
(Reporting by Jonathan Gould, additional reporting by Nick Vinocur in Paris; Editing by David Goodman)