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Dubourg Automobiles Group on industry challenges and future-proofing

Auto Recycling World spoke to Jean Baptiste Dubourg, operational director, about his family-run auto recycling operation in France – Dubourg automobiles group. We also asked what challenges the industry face and what preparations they have made for the EV revolution.


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Image courtesy of DUBOURG AUTOMOBILES GROUP. L-R: Andréa Dubourg (operational director), Dominique Dubourg (CEO), Patricia Dubourg (general director) and Jean Baptiste Dubourg (operational director)

Please could you provide our readers with some background to your company, its history, location and current operation?

The Dubourg automobiles group, “a car recycler”, is a family structure created over sixty years ago by my grandfather François Dubourg. The group comprises two production sites: the historic site in Rauzan, located forty-five minutes from Bordeaux, near the prestigious vineyards of St Emilion, and the second site based in Petit Palais and Cornemps. These two sites handle around 15,000 end-of-life vehicles per year, employ 100 people and have 30,000 parts in stock, making the group one of the top five in France.

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My brother Andréa and I represent the third generation, always accompanied by our aunt Patricia and our father Dominique in the management of the group. Andréa and I have recently taken over the operational management of the group, well supported by loyal collaborators and department heads, which allows us to calmly approach and develop the group’s strategy at the dawn of a key period for our profession.

Do you believe we are on the brink of a golden age for vehicle recycling? However, because of the potential opportunities, will it attract the attention of those outside of the traditional market, create friction and change the conventional model of auto recycling?

The automotive recycler profession is at the beginning of a whole new era, with the emphasis on a circular economy through the sale of reused parts from our end-of-life vehicles, giving them a second life and being in perfect harmony with global environmental and economic policy. This circular economy will reduce the carbon footprint and make it more accessible to a wider range of consumers. Our companies also successfully recycle materials extracted from end-of-life vehicles with a reuse rate of up to 95%.

This renewed interest in our profession is attracting covetousness, with the effect of companies being bought out by investment groups and car distributors, leading to significant changes in the national market for reused parts.

How important is it to you to remain an independent operation? What advantages does this bring to your customers and the industry in general?

The strategy of independence is part of our DNA. However, the major changes that the profession is currently undergoing oblige us to remain vigilant and not to neglect any strategy, including that of joining an ambitious national or international network with the aim of reinforcing our position in the leading car.

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The advantages of being independent are numerous: speed of decision, greater autonomy, flexibility, versatility and social atmosphere.

The attachment shown by some of our insurance partners who are very attached to this independence, sharing common values with our company on key issues such as the Corporate Social Responsibility policy applied in our company, as well as our common history, which started with some of them more than 30 years ago.

In France, what are the major challenges in auto recycling currently, especially when it comes to dealing with environmental legislation?

There are many of them. First of all, there is the reform of the EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) channels provided for in the bill; the end-of-life vehicle recycling sector will have to set up an eco-organisation or an individual system by 2024. However, an amendment adopted at the last minute in the National Assembly in December, without any consultation with the sector’s professionals, obliges approved centers to sign contracts with car manufacturers’ networks in order to comply with the principles of EPR. In concrete terms, operators managing end-of-life vehicles that have not been selected by the eco-organisation or the manufacturer’s individual system would be forced to cease their activity.

Although the unions and the profession mobilised to put the brakes on this provision, the Secretary of State firmly defended this measure, judging that the compulsory contract with an eco-organisation would strengthen the fight against illegal channels for the treatment of end-of-life vehicles.

The recyclers’ branch of the MOBILIANS union is firmly opposed to the implementation of such a system, mainly because it will not solve the problem of the illegal sector.

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As regards the operation of an eco-organisation, the drafting of the specifications will be added to the existing texts. However, the end-of-life vehicle sector is already subject to restrictive regulations, subject to the system of classified installations for environmental protection and to prefectorial approval. The eco-organisation risks threatening the activity of many centers, insofar as end-of-life vehicle management operators who are not selected by the eco-organisation or the individual system would no longer be part of the legal sector.

Moreover, the illegal sector is partly due to a lack of knowledge on the part of consumers. However, the setting up of an eco-organisation aims to place an obligation solely on the producers of the waste. It seems essential to integrate all the players in order to curb the problem effectively. Aware of this, Mobilians proposed, during the parliamentary debates, to table an amendment aiming to make the last holder aware of his obligations in terms of end-of-life treatment of his vehicle, in particular by attributing to the file of insured vehicles a new purpose of fighting against illegal channels of treatment of wrecks by allowing the state to cross-reference this file with the information contained in the SIV (Vehicle Registration System). It is a pity that this idea was not included in the final text.

On the substance, Mobilians question the usefulness of setting up an eco-organisation for the end-of-life vehicle processing sector, given its exemplary environmental performance, which already far exceeds European objectives. While the CNPA favors the principles of EPR, economic players must be free to use their resources to meet their obligations in an optimised manner.

Finally, the obligation for end-of-life vehicle centers to sign a contract with an eco-organisation or an individual system will automatically lead to a concentration of the market and a reduction in the number of approved end-of-life vehicle centers on the territory, with the result that several thousand jobs will disappear and the territorial network will disappear.

Are you prepared for EVs coming into your operation? How much impact do you think this will have on not only your business but on vehicle recyclers in France? And as more EVs come onto the road, do you think there will be an immediate impact, or do you think this is some time away?

Yes, our company is ready, but above all, our drivers, forklift operators, and dismantlers have the necessary authorisation to handle these electric vehicles safely. Today, our company is anticipating this new technology and is planning to have an area entirely dedicated to the processing and safety of these electric or hybrid vehicles in our next developments in 2023. I think the effect will not be immediate for our profession, as electric vehicles have existed for many years but their end-of-life treatment remains marginal. The transition announced for 2035 means that the volume of processing these vehicles will increase, but gradually, should not disrupt our companies in the short term. Moreover, everything remains to be defined between the manufacturers and our recycling centers in order to find a viable agreement that would allow us to compensate for a loss of income.

Do you have any short-term development plans for your company?

We do indeed have several projects, some of which are underway: Firstly, since last year, we have been recruiting for key positions such as an E-commerce Director, a Human Resources Director, a sales network coordinator and a communications project manager.

In a second phase, we have planned a series of works for 2023:

  • Expansion of our parts storage space, with the aim of tripling the current capacity;
  • Increase the average number of dismantled parts by doubling our dismantling chain to meet the demand of our insurance partners, but also of our professional and private customers on the national and European markets;
  • Feasibility study to develop renewable energies with a project to install photovoltaic panels/canopies.

At the same time, we have been accepted to join the 2022 class of the “Factory of the Future” program, an initiative of the ADI (Development and Innovation Agency) of the New Aquitaine region. We will benefit from targeted audits enabling us to evolve on themes such as digitalisation, digital, technological and environmental development of our group.

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