PARIS – The first car to win the “Origine France Garantie” label is theYaris, manufactured in Valenciennes, France, with 54.4% of its value added coming from the country.
More precisely, it is the first car available for sale to win the label awarded by a business-led coalition. Two electric cars made by Cours, a 16-employee company in southern France, were awarded the tag earlier, but they won’t go on sale until after the Sept. 29-Oct. 14 Paris auto show.
Peugeot Citroen and clearly have many cars that are more “French” than the Yaris, but was first to go to the organization and request verification that the Yaris range, with diesel, gasoline and hybrid engines, qualified.
"It's an advertising argument for Toyota,"spokesman Bruno Hernandez says, adding he believes that inside Renault the label is not considered as important as the French origins of its cars.
"For our new vehicles, like the Kangoo made in Maubeuge," he says, "Renault will make more of the fact that it is manufactured here and benefits from French savoir faire in general."
At, spokesman Jonathon Goodman says, "Our brands are currently looking at getting the label. If there are new labels, we are going to profit from them as well.
"We are keen to insist on the French origin of our cars. It is very important that people know that 85% of PSA's engines and gearboxes are made in France, that we have six final-assembly plants in France and that the French content of our cars made here is 85%."
The association Pro France started awarding the labels last year to help consumers find French-grown foods and to counter the global trend toward relocating manufacturing jobs in lower-cost countries.
The impetus for the organization was a 2009 letter from then-President Nicolas Sarkozy to Yves Jego, a former minister and member of Sarkozy’s conservative political party who was and is a representative in Parliament. Sarkozy said the label then in use, "Made in France," no longer was adequate because its definition was fuzzy.
Jego's response was the creation of Pro France, of which he is president. The organization uses third-party auditors such as the government’s Bureau Veritas to evaluate requests for the “Origine France Garantie” label. The label is given to manufactured goods with at least 50% of their parts coming from France, and whose essential characteristics come from the country. Association members include academics, government employees, consumer groups and industry associations such as those representing clothing and porcelain manufacturers.
The French auto industry association CCFA is not a member.
Toyota began producing the Yaris in France in 2001 at a new factory in the northern city of Valenciennes. Bureau Veritas, conducting an independent audit for Pro France, spent four days in the assembly plant and later determined the components’ origins.
“Since 2001, Toyota has used the label ‘Made in France,’” Toyota says in a press release, “but the label ‘Origine France Garantie’ is a supplementary proof of quality, as 88% of French people think, according to a poll by TNS Sofres.”
Gaelle Capin, a spokeswoman for Toyota France, says the auto maker approached Pro France earlier this year seeking the designation.
The Yaris is a version of the Japanese Vitz, and the basic engineering is done in Japan. Yaris production at Valenciennes totaled 137,000 units through July, compared with 150,000 in full-2011.
The EVs from Cours were introduced at the Geneva auto show in March. The C-Zen is aimed at private purchasers, and the C-Top at communities and businesses. The 20hp vehicles have an announced range of 75 miles (120 km) and are limited to 60 mph (95 km/h) to conserve power.