Brigitte Cantaloube joined PSA from Yahoo in early 2016 (Photo: PSA/Peugeot-Citroen)

Brigitte Cantaloube became chief digital officer of PSA/Peugeot-Citroen on February 1. At the Paris auto show, the former Yahoo executive spoke to automotiveIT about the digital transformation of France’s biggest car group

You’ve been on the job for eight months. How is your first year in the auto industry shaping up?These are crazy and very exciting times in the auto industry. We are dealing with a new kind of connected consumer and as a car brand we need to talk to this consumer differently. Second, technology is changing everything about the car. Previously, an automaker would sell a car to be used by a single person in a single transaction. Now we’re looking at connected cars with multiple users and multiple revenue streams. And the autonomous car is coming. The industry is at the core of the internet-of-things revolution. As a result, traditional carmakers are facing a new landscape of competitors. There are a lot of new players and a lot of technology and internet companies are entering the automotive ecosystem. We need to be aware that everybody can be a competitor tomorrow.

What do you see as the core part of the digital transformation in the car industry?Digital is at the core of the new vision that is guiding PSA. We used to sell a few million cars a year. Now we need to be partners of our clients for a lifetime and propose the best mobility experience to them, no matter what their situation is. We’re not just talking about selling a car, but how to address all of our customers’ mobility needs.

How did PSA CEO Carlos Tavares define your mission when you joined PSA from Yahoo?I was told to live the digital transformation and accelerate it. We need to drive the digital revolution all along the value chain, so I needed to ensure that we have the right digital transformation plan in place to support our “Push to Pass” recovery plan. Execution and speed of execution are crucial. The risk in transformation is that you want to do everything at the same time. So it is my role to make sure we are moving in the right direction, that we prioritize the right projects and identify what are the key digital transformation initiatives that need to be implemented. Are we on the right track? Do we make the right investments in the right projects?

What progress have you made in individual areas so far? We have prioritized what actions we need to take to achieve this long-lasting relationship with our clients. We will need first-class CRM tools for this. At the moment, we’re operating in quite a fragmented landscape. We’ve also embarked on a drive to roll out mobility services. To move faster with the execution of projects, we are working on breaking down the various silos in the company.

Any other concrete examples of digital transformation in progress?We have a lot of data experts, but we need to step up even more in this area. So we’re building up expertise. I’ve hired a chief data officer to lead this effort. Connecting customer and vehicle data as we build the internet of things is important. That’s what we are doing internally. We’re also building big global digital partnerships, because innovation will come from our own teams and from the outside. And we have ambitious plans around open innovation and are working with a growing number of startups.

How do you turn a traditional carmaker into a new mobility player?We have a big vision from Carlos Tavares and now we have to make it work. In the end, it’s all about the difference in the quality and speed of execution. We’re not actually such a traditional carmaker. When you visit PSA’s labs and see the virtual reality implementations you can see that. It’s best in class. But there are lots of things we need to accelerate because we have big competitors in the market. We will need to be the most agile and the smartest. And it’s my role to get us there.

Interview by Arjen Bongard