Arnaud Pigounides, RETROFUTURE, sublimate the automobile. Portrait.
Arnaud PIGOUNIDES is the founder of Retrofuture. Passionate about creation and advertising, his professional life revolves around the world. Over the years and opportunities, his thinking has greatly evolved, until he embarked on a totally different sector of activity… And innovative in France. A lifelong passion, which has become his activity, a company in full swing today.
A life already oriented towards creativity
From an early age, Arnaud PIGOUNIDES has a taste for travel. His father is a doctor, and has to move regularly. Thus, born in Villeneuve sur Lot, he lived successively in Alès, then in Versailles, especially in Burgundy, until he was 18 years old. Then he moved to Toulouse to study economics at university.
In parallel with his studies, he worked as a supervisor in a college. An experience that teaches him independence and organization. He is also involved in the associative life of his university, being part of the student office and becomes elected to the faculty but also to the CROUS of Toulouse.
At this time in his life, he already knew that he was a man of action, not an academic. He does not intend to be an employee in a company, and already knows that he wants to create something. Thus, at the age of 21, he created his first company, with his brother. A call center that collects information for surveys, but also to make sales, appointments.
Gone to two in this first entrepreneurial adventure… The company has undergone significant development, to accommodate more than 20 employees. An impressive expansion, but for all that, Arnaud PIGOUNIDES knew that it was not a career he would embrace all his life. He was driven by a completely different desire: that of traveling the world, of moving.
He then turned to a master’s degree in Marketing at the Sup de Co school in Toulouse. A choice that is not due to chance. Indeed, he is a great enthusiast of advertising, marketing, considering himself a “baby of Culture Pub”. He wants a career related to creativity, without abandoning the commercial aspect that matters enormously.
Promising first experiences in advertising
While studying marketing, he discovered a job he immediately liked: the strategic planner. This is the person who develops a brand’s communication strategies and is responsible for the creative execution of that strategy. At the same time, he met Pierre D’HUY. A meeting that only reinforces his desire to embark on this activity.
Then began a period of job search in Paris. No stable position is to be filled, there are only internship offers. For Arnaud, this is a sign that his destiny lies elsewhere. Always driven by his desire to travel, he headed to New York, to take care of another project he had in mind. Thus, in 2003, on American soil, he met two people who accompanied and helped him. These are French people, who are at the head of a company in advertising. He found a place there, and began to work there, in his favorite sector.
Unfortunately, American history ended in 2006, for administrative reasons, and Arnaud returned to Paris. In particular, he found a position that allowed him to participate in the creation of orange’s rebranding, when the latter was still France Telecom. That was the event of 2006.
All his experiences acquired over the years give him the desire to start his own business in advertising. In 2007, he created “Just A Kiss”, an advertising agency focused on brand strategy. His job is to analyze market trends, sectors of activity, then translate it into a strategic idea. With this valuable information, the team is then able to create the brand image. In addition, he participated in the emergence of digital with the Crative Agency, for which he created an identity and design subsidiary.
From awareness to change of course
In 2014, change of course: Arnaud joined a large group. He deals with the digitalization of the luxury sector, and is no longer the leader. A position far from what attracts him, and that he has trouble bearing. He appreciates the freedom to create, to try to move forward, something he cannot do freely, without the approval of his hierarchical superiors.
The flame was no longer there, he decides to leave the company, and goes to Canada, to Montreal to find a job. One day he decides by chance to settle in California A nice coincidence, because during a road trip decided at the last moment between San Francisco and Los Angeles decided at the last moment in September 2015, that life takes a new turn.
At that time, he owned an old car that he particularly liked. It regularly breaks down, but holds up. A few months later, on the occasion of another road trip on American roads, the engine of his car drops.
However for everyday life, California is the paradise of the electric car, and it uses a very famous brand in the United States, certainly impressive to drive… But for him, this car has much less cachet than his old car. And there, he has an awareness: why not make a mixture of the two vehicles? By retaining the character of the old car, but with the electric motor, more reliable and durable, the car leaves for a second life.
At that time, Arnaud was unaware that this practice existed and was called retrofitting. In the United States, many companies do this in an artisanal way. Faced with the transformations of these vehicles, he is seduced. He then begins to learn about this practice which sounds like a matter of course. This new project then occupies all his thoughts. He acquired an old small Porsche 914 from 1973 made electric by the pioneers EV WEST. The car is fun and saves the planet. It leaves no one indifferent… And especially the people he meets keep congratulating him and asking questions. Some even offer to buy him. A new love at first sight for this unique concept.
I know how to feel something that will work.
Retrofuture’s beginnings in a non-existent French market
In 2017, Arnaud follows his partner who is transferred… in Paris. He finds his relatives, and does not wait to present his project to them. Against all odds, the opinion is not as enthusiastic as hoped. The French mentality does not encourage innovation as much as it does in the United States. This lack of enthusiasm echoes the ban on retrofitting in Continental Europe and especially in France. To carry it out, it is necessary to obtain the prior agreement of the manufacturer. A request that does not always succeed, while a regulation already exists in Italy and Germany.
Despite the restrictions, French companies want to practice retrofit, but do not have permission to do so. A painful situation, which does not allow them to carry out this activity. At that time, Tesla was still relatively unknown in France.
Quickly, Arnaud PIGOUNIDES contacted these companies to present his project, and wished to propose a change in the regulations on retrofit. For this, he works with a task force of engineers, lawyers and lobbyists to carry out a state of the art, as well as a study of foreign regulations.
We have to do all the work for the law to change.
But it was above all the meeting of his future partner Marc TISON that changed everything. The latter has “made his life” at PSA, and therefore knows perfectly the automotive world on the manufacturer side and especially is unanimously recognized in the field. Centralian, former executive of the group, he launched many models (including the famous C3 Picasso), was boss of the Sochaux plant, but also director of the electrical strategy of PSA in the 2010s. They then begin to think together about the project before embarking. They know, however, that changing regulations takes time.
The launch in a context favorable to retrofit
However, some factors seem to be green for this project. The price of gasoline is rising, which allows electric to take its place on the market.
Carbon taxes and bans on polluting vehicles in Paris and the Low Emission Zones just created (the famous crit’air vignette), the yellow vests… Everything agrees to find ecological and economic solutions to the problems of the French.
But also the climate is conducive to innovation, the Startup nation spirit, and Nicolas Hulot is in the Government. The Mobility Orientation Law will pass in spring 2019, the craze is there. Some friends invest with him € 200,000 to start. It is the alignment of the planets.
Retrofuture REV, innovation at the service of the automobile of the future
With his strategy and the work of his team, at the very beginning of 2019, Arnaud PIGOUNIDES created and became Co-President of the Federation of Retrofit AIRe (Actors of the Electric Retrofit Industry). It brings together professionals, who, like him, wish to democratize retrofitting in France. If in the beginnings of the Federation, they were only four… They are now about twenty, each with its specialization on a few models of cars but scooters, motorcycles, vans, trucks, vans and buses
The Federation is gaining momentum, is talking about it to the very heart of the government in place. At that time, Arnaud PIGOUNIDES proposed the retrofit to Elisabeth BORNE, then Minister of Transport and her team. The latter immediately obtains the approval of the Minister, provided that the Federation works with the administration (DGEC Directorate General Energy and Climate) and the approval bodies (the famous mines: the CNRV and the UTAC CERAM) to create the context for the application of the retrofit. It is therefore necessary to draw up complete specifications, which requires significant work.
For its part, retrofuture and REV Industries group are coming out in the midst of COVID-19. Despite the economic and health context, the issues surrounding the decarbonization of mobility remain central. At the same time good for the planet, it allows households to make significant savings. No need to buy a new car as soon as a problem arises. In addition, it increases the number of low-emission zones.
In France, more and more metropolises will apply, as in London for example, limited traffic. This prevents the most polluting vehicles from contributing to air pollution. With retrofitting, this pollution then becomes zero, and has virtuous impacts on the environment.
We created a beautiful monster that couldn’t exist 5 years ago.
Retrofuture, from formalization to the health situation
After several months of work on the drafting of the regulations for retrofit… The latter receives the approval of the Government. It is released on April 3, 2020, in the middle of a pandemic. Thus, all rolling vehicles can use retrofit, with the exception of all vehicles less than 5 years old.
For Arnaud, setting up Retrofuture was not easy. With the pandemic, companies that create new markets are not recognized. Consequently, Retrofuture was not concerned by any clause to obtain State aid. Failing to have a liability, nor a payroll and even less balance sheets, the company could not apply for the Loan Guaranteed by the State… And still has nothing today.
In addition, Retrofuture relied on participation in many events to make itself known, but also on significant fundraisers to boost the company. Because of the health measures in force, Arnaud PIGOUNIDES has seen the events canceled… Just like the planned fundraisers.
A hard blow, especially since the Retrofuture project had been widely highlighted and acclaimed by the press. And above all the demand is there. From the beginning of 2020, Retrofuture makes a commercial POC and launches its offer via its website. The requests are numerous, proof of a craze for retrofit.
Retrofuture, the arrival in the South-West
The team works on engineering, processes, ecosystem, sourcing, but are limited. Now it is necessary to produce, to have the means of its acts and to find a place to install the teams.
Arnaud PIGOUNIDES has therefore developed his company, and has chosen to settle in Bordeaux. This city thus allowed him to radiate more easily in the South-West, without being too far from Paris, place of concentration of power. But with Retrofuture, he does not intend to limit himself to a presence in two cities. On the contrary, it aims to settle in a large number of metropolises and medium-sized cities to make retrofit accessible to as many people as possible… While reducing its carbon footprint, because it is not necessary to take your vehicle to the other side of the country. A time saver as well, therefore.
A delicate installation for retrofit and Retrofuture
Despite opportunities and an obvious market to conquer for France… Retrofuture must first convince politicians. And this is not always easy. If some regions are more inclined to invest in retrofitting to help the company set up… Others are much more cautious, and do not fully mobilize for him.
Especially in New Aquitaine… The region is not very receptive to the development of retrofitting on its territory.
However, there are many opportunities, with significant economic benefits… Just like the ecological impacts, the region has been particularly committed to sustainable development actions.
What’s more, the new municipal team and the metropolis seem to appreciate the retrofit so the planets align again. Because REV Retrofuture contributes to generating jobs in the neo-Aquitaine territory. It also recruits a dozen people in Bordeaux, and works in partnership with local companies and players, from Darwin to the battery manufacturer in Mérignac Neogy (St@rtec group).
Retrofuturs and car manufacturers, the turn started
Traditional manufacturers are also looking at retrofitting: Renault has announced that its plant in Flins, in the Yvelines, will be dedicated exclusively to the reconditioning of vehicles… This includes in its range of services retrofitting with the objective of 100,000 retrofit of utility vehicles by 2025.
For Retrofuture, transforming as many vehicles as possible will generate significant turnover and create jobs. Thus, by transforming 30,000 vehicles, it generates a turnover of 600 million euros, and creates a total of 1,000 jobs, including 250 internally. This encourages car manufacturers to turn to this new service that appeals to lovers of exceptional cars.
Retrofit is therefore a more than virtuous process. Modifying a 10-year-old vehicle makes it possible to derive 60% profit from the reduction of greenhouse gases. Today, Arnaud PIGOUNIDES affirms it: any diesel vehicle can be entitled to retrofit.
Retrofuture, a company of the future in a still timid market?
Arriving in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Arnaud PIGOUNIDES hoped to be supported and advised to succeed in his implementation. Indeed, Bordeaux appears to him to be a very dynamic city and concerned by environmental issues. On the territory, in general, there is no investment fund for hardware. Despite this, he turned to France Industrie, which was one of the good ways to succeed.
Retrofit is industry, not mechanics. It is a new car in an old setting. We are car manufacturers.
With Retrofuture, he intends to contribute to the local economy with recruitment, while bringing added value in favor of ecology. However, when he arrived in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, he wanted to be able to rely on a person from the region to develop serenely.
Sometimes, we find ourselves in front of ten different interlocutors, which makes it more difficult to exchange.
Arnaud PIGOUNIDES deplores the current situation but moves forward and finds solutions. He wants to change things and mentalities in a few months, not in 10 years. Especially since the whole world is sounding the alarm about the importance of finding solutions in favor of the environment… But he also finds that dynamic new companies are not sufficiently supported and supported.
The dynamism of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, between objectives and evidence
The region is particularly focused on the environment. Car rentals are frequent, with the tourist attraction of Bordeaux especially for wine tourism. Retrofuture also intends to settle in a brand new space in Bordeaux. A place where the customer experience will be total. A place where retrofitting can develop with a demanding population, especially on a utility pole.
The retrofit operation is relatively fast, as soon as the car is ready to receive the engine. The technical inspection must be up to date, and the vehicle must be ready for electrification. From the moment these two conditions are met, the transformation takes about 2 days and the registration card will be modified to obtain the sesame: the Crit’air 0 vignette.
A great opportunity for activity, which encourages Arnaud PIGOUNIDES to continue his activity beyond the French borders. Indeed, our regulations are deliberately industrial and the most secure and standardized in the world. So the French retrofit will undoubtedly be the “norm” of tomorrow. Now Belgium and Spain want to use the same regulation. It is a base of retrofit Regulation Europe that is being established and therefore a common market to be decarbonized.
We are working on this with our European feedback colleagues and it looks like we are off to a good start.
Today, there are more than 300 million vehicles in Europe on the road. We understand his desire to go fast “from Bordeaux to the World”…