Lamberet’s second life

From the March 2016 issue.

Upbeat news have become rare since the global financial crisis hit France almost a decade ago. All the more surprising is the success story of local OEM Lamberet, which continues to grow against the trend.

Despite being the second-largest Eurozone economy after Germany, the proud nation of France is still struggling to bounce back from the slowdown that befell the continent back in 2008. “There is an economic and social emergency,” President François Hollande said as recently as January, echoing a statement he made after the gruesome Paris attacks in November 2015.

Next to national security, Hollande’s main concern is France’s soaring unemployment. Even though the Grande Nation recently began to emerge from years of stagnation, it has failed to create enough jobs to reduce the pool of 3.5 million people seeking work. Growing at an annual pace of little more than one per cent, it is too weak to reduce unemployment, and with it social precariousness in the marginalised banlieues – suburban enclaves where people face particularly high hurdles in finding permanent work.

Amid that tension comes the success story of €140 million trailer manufacturing business Lamberet. Almost bankrupt in 2009, the refrigerated van specialist was taken over by Chinese investor Xinfei in May 2015 and has since not only grown in revenue, but also added some 100 staff to its workforce – an increase of more than 10 per cent.

Given President Holland’s gloomy assessment of the French economy, the company’s remarkable revival could give the nation’s beat-up psyche a welcome boost: Founded in St Cyr sûr Menthon, a small town near the Saone river in the Bourgogne region, north of Lyon, Lamberet is situated in the area with the highest unemployment growth rate in all of France*. By staying true to a region where positive economic news are few and far between, CEO Erick Méjean is confident that it can set a positive example for the storm-tossed economy and contribute to ending the emergency unfolding around him.

In fact, with Xinfei now providing much needed financial security, it is Méjean’s proclaimed goal to double production within five years from now and start up a fifth manufacturing plant to keep up with growing demand in the medium and light-duty segment of the market.

Albeit known for its refrigerated trailer expertise, Lamberet’s ambitious growth plan is largely based on the design and manufacture of temperature-controlled bodies for rigid trucks and vans, Méjean says. “Smaller vehicles with refrigerated bodies are very popular in the south of Europe with its tight, ancient city centres. Aside from France, we deliver a lot to northern Italy, for example. This is one reason why we are planning to establish a new production plant, to cope with the growth on the smaller end of the market.”

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