Françoise Colpron, President of Valeo North America, receives the French Legion of Honor
Remarks by Consul General of France Vincent Floreani on the occasion of the presentation ceremony of the insigna of Knight of the Legion of Honor to Françoise Colpron, President of Valeo North America.
(September 30, 2015)
Dear Françoise Colpron,
About a year ago, when I met you on my first trip to Detroit, I wondered if you already had the Legion of Honor, because I thought you really deserved it. Today, it is a privilege to award you the Legion of Honor, in the presence of your family, friends and colleagues.
I was told that when you learned about this award, you were really surprised. You were thinking "Why should France honor me?" Why should France honor you? There are at least three reasons for that:
First of all, you are a great friend of France:
Your connection with France started at a very young age, as you attended French schools abroad, in Peru and Guatemala. That must explain why - although you are by birth French-Canadian - you sound so French.
You master the French language so perfectly. Nobody can hear the slightest accent.
And this is a language that you speak at home with Clara, your daughter, and with James, your husband.
Your links with France extend far beyond the language. French culture also means a lot to you.
You read French literature to relax. You like classical authors like Alexandre Dumas, contemporary ones, like Robert Merle, or more recent ones like Jean-Christophe Ruffin.
You also embrace the French culture, through your travels in France. Indeed, you like travelling and you have guides from all places. I understand you have a special interest in the fantastic December Winter Market in Strasbourg. That is wonderful place, indeed.
You also have a passion for French food. From home recipes to the prestigious Grand Vefour, one of the top restaurants in France, you love it all: sea-urchins, quail eggs, and so on.
Of course, what is French food without French wine? I was told, you have a special affinity for Rhône Valley wines: Chateauneuf du Pape, Condrieu, Côte-Rôtie, Saint-Joseph, etc. So do I!
Secondly, you are a remarkable leader:
You are now President of Valeo, one of the largest French companies in North America. You are behind the wheel of a top automotive group. You made it in this boy´s club. I´m wondering what drove you to join and stay in this industry.
Was it in France in the early days, when you were on the road with your friend Isabelle, and there was never enough gas in your Renault Megane to go the last mile?
Or what is just driving a stick shift, when you were working in La Verrière? There must be a link. It seems that your destiny was tied to the automotive industry.
In any case, you came to that position while remaining true to yourself.
Referring to the time when you started in Valeo - That was in 1988 as legal director of the climate control branch - you said in an interview "The first thing my boss said was that I needed to sharpen my teeth and be tough if I wanted to be successful. After about a year, at my annual appraisal, he acknowledged that I was results-oriented and had met all my objectives, but had done it in my own style. That was a great victory, to be able to demonstrate that you can achieve the same results in a different way without giving up who you are."
Valeo, a latin verb, means, "I´m doing well, I´m strong." Your effective leadership, your vision and dedication have strengthened the Group´s presence in the U.S especially in the Detroit area, a home to many French automotive companies.
You are known for your energy, your high standards and your ambitious strategic visions. You can successfully navigate the complexity of international negotiations and management strategy.
It was no surprise that you received countless awards for your excellence in leading Valeo North America, including the 2013 Group sales award for the Highest Turnaround in Growth and Profitability and 2014 Top Employer Certification.
We are also honoring you today as a leading woman of the auto industry. You were the first woman in your company to be national director. It is difficult role, but you rose to the challenge.
Through your work, you became Valeo´s global champion for Gender Diversity. You contributed to bringing more diversity and equality in the company. You created Valeo Women Connected, a successful networking and professional development group which acts as the liaison between Valeo and external women´s organizations.
As an eminent business woman, you had two pieces of advice for others:
"First, be yourself; don´t be encouraged to think or act differently. The benefit of diversity is a team of people who are different and bring their own experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives to the table. I believe that differences of opinion lead to progress and creativity, and that´s what I look for in my team.
Second, use your time wisely. The life of a working mother and wife is a permanent balancing act. Find your own recipe to balance how you allocate your time among work, family, and other activities, while trying not to forget yourself."
Finally, you are a wonderful Ambassador for innovation:
Valeo represents the excellence of French industry and technology worldwide. The name is tantamount to innovation and environmental responsibility and your dynamic approach showcases what it has to offer. You have taken on the role of Ambassador for French innovation in North America.
Last year during French Innovation Week in Chicago, in the presence of the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, you demonstrated Valeo´s Automated Valet Parking feature, called Valeo Park4U. This is a cutting-edge technology. When calling for this innovation, did you have in mind your experience in Paris, trying to park in narrow spaces without denting or crashing your car? This year, you agreed again for Valeo to be part of the French Innovation week and make a presentation on disruptive innovation in the automotive industry. We are grateful for that.
Innovation is a priority for France, our ability to invent and develop is one of the best, and we are proud of our companies, in France and abroad. In an increasingly competitive global market France’s innovation sets us apart. Our companies like Valeo pave the way for the future. We are all proud that, for each of the past 4 years, Valeo Technologies won the prestigious Automotive News PACE award.
But what you are showing goes beyond technical breakthroughs. Through your leadership and your charisma, you promote values that are dear to France: an openness to the world, diversity, generosity and attention to others.
For all these reasons and many more, we are delighted to award you the highest French medal. This medal was created in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte and the decree is signed by the President of the French Republic.
Madame Françoise Colpron, au nom du président de la République, nous vous faisons Chevalier de la Légion d´honneur./.