French workers protest Taiwan scooter deal


PARIS–The French Post Office’s procurement of 3,000 50cc KYMCO scooters from Taiwan sparked a protest at a Peugeot Scooters factory Friday, as the deal has affected the factory workers’ job prospects, according to a report on the Le Pays newspaper website.

The report said the state-run post office’s decision to place the big order with Taiwan’s Kwang Yang Motor Co., which sells its motorbikes under the brand KYMCO, was like ringing the death knell for France’s struggling motorcycle industry.

The French Post Office, previously Peugeot Scooters’ major client, decided late last year to switch its business to Kwang Yang. However, the news did not break until recently, prompting workers at the motorbike company’s factory in Dannemarie in northeastern France to stage a protest, Le Pays said. According to the newspaper, Peugeot Scooters was scheduled to close its Dannemarie factory at the end of 2012 and transfer all of the plant’s 140 workers to the company’s other sections. The company, a part of PSA Peugeot Citroen — the second largest carmaker in Europe — had already laid off 250 workers at its Dannemarie and Mandeure plants in 2008.

Another French daily Le Figaro reported earlier this month that Peugeot Scooters had relocated two-thirds of its production to China since 2007 in an effort to cut operational costs. Up to 90 percent of Peugeot motorcycles and scooters are sold to European countries, but annual motorbike sales in that market have dropped by 40 percent since 2007, the report said. Peugeot Scooters lost over 200 million euros last year, it added.

Meanwhile, BFM Business radio station said the French Post Office’s procurement of KYMCO scooters has had little impact on jobs at Peugeot Scooters because the company has continued to secure orders for its 125 cc scooters, which offer better profit margins than the 50 cc models.

Asked about his views on the French media’s discussion about KYMCO’s successful foray into the French scooter market, Taiwan’s representative to France Michel Lu said small scooters are a highly competitive product.

“Kwang Yang’s success in winning the order from the French Post Office indicates that its scooters’ price, design, quality and performance have won consumers’ recognition,” Lu said.

Blue-chip Taiwanese companies can grasp business opportunities through fair competition, he added.

In Taipei, the United Daily News (UDN) reported Saturday that Europe has been Kwang Yang’s major export outlet and that KYMCO has become a popular scooter brand in the European market, drawing wide attention at major European motorcycle trade fairs.

In July 2011, Kwang Yang signed a new engine OEM project with BMW, indicating that the company’s motorbike engine production technology has won recognition by the German motor vehicle giant, the newspaper said.

According to the UDN report, Italy, Spain, German and France have been the Kaohsiung-based company’s major export outlets. Its ATV multifunctional vehicle now holds more than a 30 percent share of the French market, the report said.

A group of French Post Office executives visited the company earlier this year to confirm the details of the 50 cc scooter deal, the report said.