Fresh from sealing a deal last month to merge with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), Mr Tavares has moved quickly to reorganise the global senior management team steering two of its three French brands and to review their position within what will become a massive 14-brand conglomerate.
As previously reported, Citroen and DS and fellow PSA Group brands Peugeot, Opel and Vauxhall will join with FCA’s Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati and Ram to become the world’s fourth-largest auto group by volume, delivering some 8.7 million units a year.
Mr Cobee joined PSA around September last year as Citroen’s deputy CEO and, in moving to the top job, succeeds Linda Jackson who will now lead a study “to clarify and support brand differentiation within a brand portfolio” and report directly to Mr Tavares.
In the announcement, PSA highlighted Mr Cobee’s “wide experience in international markets” which it said was “essential for Citroen to succeed in its objective to grow internationally”.
A French national, Mr Cobee left Mitsubishi Motors Corporation early last year as part of a reshuffle among the top management ranks at Nissan and Mitsubishi in Japan that came after chairman Carlos Ghosn was arrested for alleged financial misconduct.
At the time, Mr Cobee was serving as Mitsubishi’s executive director in charge of product strategy and brand, as well as products and programs.
He had been in the role since 2017, moving across from Nissan Motor Corporation where over a 15-year period he worked in a number of key positions, notably head of purchasing for Nissan Europe, program director for Nissan in Japan and head of the reborn Datsun brand.
Ms Jackson had held the reins at Citroen since June 2014 and, during a visit to Melbourne last year, reaffirmed the company’s ongoing commitment to Australia.
She joined Citroen in 2005 as financial director of Citroen UK, rising to finance director of Citroen France in 2009.
She then served as managing director of Citroen UK and Ireland from mid-2010 until stepping up as executive vice-president in charge of the brand worldwide four years later.
Announcing her new role, Mr Tavares said: “After six years leading the Citroen brand, establishing successfully its new positioning, increasing sales volume and market share in Europe, and preparing the international offensive, I am pleased to announce that Linda Jackson, with her great brand-building experience, is taking up this new responsibility within the group.”
Over at DS, which remains off the agenda for the Australian market as independent distributor Inchcape concentrates on Peugeot and Citroen, global CEO Yves Bonnefont will stand aside for Ms Foucher and, in similar fashion to Ms Jackson, lead a study on “potential synergies within a portfolio of brands” that also reports to Mr Tavares.
PSA says this new role will cover “brands positioning from a customer and geographical point of view (and) strategy and synergies”.
A former deputy managing director of Citroen, Mr Bonnefont became the inaugural head of the DS premium brand upon its establishment in 2014, and a couple of years earlier (as PSA Group director of strategy) he led “the project of evolution of the positioning of Peugeot and Citroen brands”.
Most recently serving as deputy CEO of the DS brand, Ms Foucher joined PSA in April last year as senior vice-president of talent management (handling recruitment and career development of top executives) after holding down a similar role with the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance for the previous four years.
She has a further 25 years’ experience with Renault, working across a broad range of positions including vice-president of the French brand’s EV program and vice-president of product planning.
In announcing her appointment, PSA pointed to her “strong track record in product and electric vehicles; she especially led the internationalisation of product portfolios”.
Earlier this month, PSA announced it had appointed another former Renault-Nissan executive, Bastien Schupp, as director of marketing and communications at DS Automobiles, replacing Arnaud Ribault who has relocated to the group’s Latin America division as director of sales and marketing.
By Terry Martin