Peugeot may close strike-ridden plant this year

The troubled French carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroën says it may shut down an iconic plant north-east of Paris this year because of continuing strikes and falling sales.

Reuters/Jacky Naegelen

The company’s Aulnay-sous-bois plant, which employs around 3,300 workers and has been hit by strikes since January, was due to be closed by 2014.

However, PSA’s finance director, Jean-Bapiste de Chatillon, told financial analysts on Wednesday the group wouldn’t rule out closing the plant a year early.

"The fact that a small number of people keep disrupting our factory might oblige us to do so," he warned.

PSA, France’s largest car maker and Europe’s second-largest, announced first quarter sales fell by 6.5 percent to 13.03 billion euros due to the weak auto market in Europe.

This followed a 16.5 percent slump in worldwide sales in 2012.

The company warned that European auto markets "could be worse than previously
expected" next year as well, but said it would focus on increasing sales in China, where sales jumped by 31 percent in the first three months of this year.

In February, the European Commission gave France permission to grant PSA a bailout of up to 1.2 billion euros, on the condition that the group develops a restructuring plan within six months.

De Chatillon said the company would begin talks with “social partners”, or trade unions, to discuss improving the carmaker’s competitiveness.

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