A ten-year Renault veteran, Christian Mardrus is an engineer by training, but has spent a large part of his career in the sales area, including as director of the French sales network, before being appointed senior vice president of information systems in 2006 and joining Renault’s management committee in 2008.

Last year he became managing director of Global Alliance Logistics, the new joint organisation set up by Renault and Nissan to manage the two carmakers’ global supply chain. A native of Provence, he enjoys classical music and Russian history, but has little patience for bureaucrats.

Automotive Logistics: Does a good engineer make a good logistician?

Christian Mardrus: Being an engineer– even if I have worked many years in sales and aftersales–makes it possible to understand technical issues and helps solve complicated problems by splitting them into more manageable parts. I could say being an engineer helped me in taking this new position. Does that make a good logistician? Certainly, but it is not enough.

AL: What attracted you to logistics at Renault?

CM: Firstly by the willingness of our President and CEO, Mr [Carlos] Ghosn, to make a new step forward in the Alliance between Renault and Nissan. Logistics is an area where synergies between our two groups are obvious and achievable. In addition, logistics is at the crossroads of many functions: for example, we work in close cooperation with departments like Vehicle Projects, Manufacturing as well as Sales and Marketing; logistics should be an area open to others. Logistics is also very operational; you can rapidly see the impact of the good–and bad–decisions and this is very motivating.

AL: What do you find most difficult about your new position?

CM: By its nature, automotive logistics is complex. You have to deal with parts deliveries to factories, vehicle distribution to the dealer network and aftersales and spare part deliveries. What makes it difficult is the number of parameters to optimise and staying at the highest level in terms of reliability and costs. However, making Nissan and Renault logisticians work together was not difficult; there was a good level of cooperation and respect between the teams. We just needed to accelerate the pace and help to make common decisions.

AL: What is the most important thing you’ve learned since taking up your latest position?

CM: Your work is never done. Even if people come to you with detailed and precise solutions, very often it is possible to get to an even better result. But this is not specific to logistics.

AL: Do you think the car manufacturing industry really will switch to greener modes of transport like rail or sea?

CM: Our industry will certainly use modes other than trucks because of–or thanks to–green taxes, but I don’t believe that we will totally switch since truck transportation is still reliable and flexible compared to others. Sea and rail still have to improve a lot in these areas.

AL: Are enough young managers willing to consider logistics as a profession?

CM: I think so. For example, we recently set up a logistics competence centre in Bucharest, Romania, and after two years we have 170 talented people there. It was not that difficult to attract them.

AL: Has the great recession changed anything about your approach to life?

CM: Certainly. I believe that due to the crisis, but also due to the rise of developing countries, Western European countries will have to work harder to keep their ranking among the top nations. Education and also strong motivation are necessary. These are lessons I would like my children to remember.

AL: Do the French and Japanese ways of thinking complement each other? Are there ever cultural differences?

CM: Obviously there are cultural differences, but not only between the French and Japanese; it is also the case between our European countries and the US. It’s possible to overcome those differences when we talk about logistics. We have found that the issues are the same almost everywhere and that similar solutions could be applied to Japanese, European or American logistics.

AL: Can you tell us any interesting books or reading matter that you’ve read lately?

CM: I love history, especially that of Russia, where my family comes from, so I know a number of interesting books in this area. But that is another story.

AL: What’s your favourite genre of music or band?

CM: Mozart and Chicago Blues.

AL: What do you like about where you live now?

CM: Versailles is a nice city and easy to live in. But my preference goes to Southern France–Provence–where I was born. I also spend a third of my time in Japan, in Yokohama; it is almost my second home now.

AL: Is there anything you don’t like about where you live?

CM: I love people that are pragmatic and courageous. But I don’t like bureaucrats and cowards.