Stellantis, champion of home work, calls engineers back to office

DETROIT: Stellantis NV has sent its auto engineers back to the office, reversing a policy that chief executive officer Carlos Tavares has used to cut expenses at a company that championed home working in the wake of the pandemic.

Engineers have been at the office at least three days a week since January, with some there as many as six days when a new car is introduced, said Ned Curic, who heads engineering and technology at Stellantis.

"It’s impossible to engineer vehicles remotely,” Curic said in an interview in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

"You have to have people together. You have to do design sessions, engineering sessions and the buildups together. It helps us accelerate a number of projects.”

Stellantis championed remote work in recent years, and in the process drastically reduced office space and sold real estate assets.

Labour unions have criticised the intensity of the push, saying workers are often encouraged to stay away as much as possible.

The policy has been part of Tavares’ stringent efficiency push, who has cited intense competition from Chinese automakers for cutting jobs in countries including Italy and France.

The manufacturer in 2022 said its remote-work policy had become permanent, allowing non-assembly line workers to work from home 70% of the time while several other companies required staff to be back in offices more frequently since the end of Covid-19 lockdowns.

Tavares himself works from his home in Portugal around one week per month.

"Remote working is very flexible within Stellantis, depending on the need to work more or less often physically together,” a spokesman for the company said.

"There is a delegation to the management to establish the conditions of the best possible performance.”

Curic, a former Microsoft Corp. and Inc. executive who joined Stellantis in 2021, has been re-organising the manufacturer’s engineering operations ever since his role was expanded last year to include research and development.

He oversees about 15,000 engineers, many of them located in France, Italy, Germany and the US, with growing teams also in Brazil and India.

Curic’s reversal of the policy helps allay worries that it might be harder for Stellantis engineers to efficiently work together on new cars.

The company is in the middle of an ambitious new vehicle rollout plan, with 25 models to be introduced this year alone.
Autos Stellantis