Christophe de Charentenay is the lecturer of the Green Strategy course at the BBS Global MBA and an expert in carbon-free mobility. He is currently CEO of M@Air and previously served as President of eGT from 2017 to 2020. During this time, he led the K-ZE project (Dacia Spring) and the creation of the electric vehicle (EV), awarded as the greenest EV car of 2022 by the GreenNCAP organization. His strategy of using lightweight materials has also been successful in the marketplace, with Dacia Spring being the top-selling EV in France in January 2023. The story of this project is documented in the book “The Innovation Odyssey: Lessons from an Impossible Project”. On the occasion of this important achievement, we met him for a short interview.
The Dacia Spring beat off competition from the likes of Tesla and Cupra to become Green NCAP’s cleanest and greenest car of 2022. How many years of work and how many processes had to be rethought from scratch to achieve this result?
The Dacia Spring project was initiated in September 2016 and launched in China in September 2019 and in Europe at the end of 2020, taking just under three years for development, including a new e-powertrain. This was accomplished in a shorter time than the typical four years required for such projects at large OEMs. The award for the greenest EV car of 2022 recognizes the efficacy of a simple concept: for an electric vehicle to be efficient, it must be lightweight.
Your project has shown that electric cars can and must become affordable for everyone. It has also shown that you don’t have to be a start-up to carry out disruptive initiatives. How important is it for tomorrow’s managers to learn to think outside the box to bring innovation into the most diverse contexts?
The affordability of the Dacia Spring was achieved through a lightweight design and limiting features to only what was necessary. To achieve this, a dedicated startup company, eGT, was established to manage the project, allowing for the flexibility to escape the technical rules of the three OEM shareholders while still utilizing their expertise as needed. The lesson for top executives in large corporations is that there is value in giving small teams freedom in rapidly changing markets. It is also valuable for large corporations to have independent thinkers within their organizations.
Such concrete experiences and achievements in the field are undoubtedly one of the most effective ways to convey your idea of innovation to your Global MBA students. What is the most difficult concept or lesson to convey?
The biggest challenge is to learn how to manage multicultural organizations. These days we see the actual end of the Renault Nissan Global Alliance in the news due to a lack of joint projects between the Japanese and French. You need to create a common identity between different cultures while respecting the original identities of the stakeholders. This is the most challenging concept to share with students.
Our lecturers always tell us that the teaching experience is also a learning experience. What has your experience as a professor at Bologna Business School taught you?
This year is my first experience. I will answer in June!