March 28, 2018 / 10:45 AM / 24 days ago

Peugeot CEO backs calls for European battery champion

PARIS (Reuters) - French carmaker PSA Group threw its support behind efforts to create a European manufacturer of electric car batteries, as Chief Executive Carlos Tavares warned lawmakers on Wednesday against letting Asian dominance go unchallenged.

FILE PHOTO - Carlos Tavares, Chairman of the Managing Board of Groupe PSA, speaks during a presentation during the 88th International Motor Show at Palexpo in Geneva, Switzerland, March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

“We have a strategic interest in avoiding a supply concentration in Asia,” Tavares said.

The Peugeot and Citroen maker “enthusiastically supports the creation of a European champion in battery development and manufacturing”, he also told members of the French parliament’s economic affairs committee.

The European Commission is attempting to corral automakers and chemical groups into creating a European leader in its field - citing Airbus in the aerospace sector as an example - that would invest in new regional production.

While some carmakers assemble battery packs, Europe has no significant production of their constituent cells - currently dominated by a handful of firms including China’s CATL and Korean rivals LG Chem and Samsung.

The European Investment Bank last month approved 52.5 million euros ($65 million) in funding for Sweden’s Northvolt, which aims to build a battery plant in the country.

PSA’s domestic rival Renault, which sources electric-car batteries from LG Chem, could also buy cells from a European supplier as production of electrified vehicles ramps up, Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said in January.

“LG Chem has no monopoly on battery supply contracts,” Ghosn had told a joint hearing of the same parliamentary committee and its financial affairs counterpart. “There is room for a European supplier if it’s competitive.”

($1 = 0.8070 euros)

Reporting by Laurence Frost and Gilles Guillaume; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta

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