Elisabeth Delval, head of the ZOE programme, was conferred the Woman of the Year award by magazine L’Usine Nouvelle on 24 September 2019. The famous French weekly magazine that covers business and technology in the industry thus rewards her exceptional professional background. Elisabeth Delval joined Renault straight after finishing her engineering studies and rapidly became interested in clean technologies and innovations. Here we recount some of the highlights of her career.
Elisabeth Delval. Delighted of course, but I must admit that I was a bit surprised as I submitted my application some months ago without thinking too much about it, spontaneously, as I am in my work. I am very touched to have received the award since I am not the only deserving person. There are many extremely committed women – and men – at Renault.
E D. It was a totally natural move for me. My father always loved tinkering with cars and I grew up in that environment. I can remember dismantling my first engine when I was fairly young! After I finished my engineering studies and started having job interviews in various sectors, this confirmed my interest in this and I joined Renault.
E.D. As a woman manager, I would say my first management experience in engineering. This was in the vehicle project development department where I was in charge of series production of seats. At 26 years old I was in charge of a team of 10, men aged 40-50 with 20 years of experience behind them. It was then that I realised that I was a woman in a man’s world!
I had to prove myself, show them that I was able to contribute a methodology, help them in complex situations and improve efficiency and, in return, they could teach me about their jobs. Things evolved for the better when they realised I could turn around tough negotiations with suppliers and obtain good results.
E.D. My following job was also a real challenge. In the early 2000s when the Group was becoming increasingly internationalised, I worked on locating parts, again for seats, in countries like Brazil, Colombia and Turkey. The objective being to ensure that these parts be produced locally and no longer brought in from Europe. This seems obvious today but it wasn’t necessarily so 20 years ago and you had to convince people, demonstrating the economic and even the ecological benefits of this way of working, which is now the norm.
E.D. Without a doubt, team work. The fact that everyone is cohesively focused on an objective despite potential difficulties with the specific aspect of my role as programme director that involves bringing together teams from different activities: vehicle and mechanical engineering, design, manufacturing, marketing, etc. Also, in a vehicle launch, like the current one for New ZOE for example, taking into account all aspects – the competitive context, the economic issues, quality requirements, outlook for sales – makes it even more interesting.
E.D. When I joined the programme in 2015, my objective was to revitalise the vehicle launched in 2012, with constant improvements to boost the life cycle and create a real dynamic around it. There were the limited editions, the launch of the second generation in 2016 with a new battery and twice the range. In just a few years we established ZOE as the leader in Europe in the electric vehicle market. We are now launching the third generation, which is more powerful, has an even longer range and is of even higher quality. When I heard, recently during the press test drives, that New ZOE really was a brand new car, I said to myself that the bet was won!.
E.D. I would say that actually they shouldn’t hesitate in looking into new areas that they wouldn’t normally have thought about. As women working in the industrial sector we have a role to play in showing younger women career possibilities in technical fields. And then, throughout a career, I’ve learned from experience that it’s when you move out of your comfort zone that you make progress, and it’s very stimulating!