Renault Trucks was very sad to learn that Paul Berliet passed away during the evening of 8 August 2012. He will be remembered as a very great man who was closely linked with the history of our company.
Paul Berliet was born on 5 October 1918, the last but one youngest child of a family living in Lyon whose father, Marius Berliet, had already exerted a powerful influence on the motor manufacturing industry since the end of the 19th century.
After his secondary education in Lyon and a period of apprenticeship, Paul Berliet finally joined the workforce of his father's company, Automobiles Marius Berliet, first of all at Monplaisir, and then at Vénissieux. He then did his military service for two years in Chamonix at the High Mountain Military School.
In 1940, he was the Foundry workshop foreman before subsequently becoming General Manager of Manufacturing. In 1949, upon the death of his father, he became the head of the family. It was at that time that the French Government transferred control of the company back to the Berliet family.
In 1954, he became Assistant General Manager and then Chairman and CEO in 1962 until the company joined the Renault Group in 1978 when Renault Véhicules Industriels was created. He then served as an Adviser to the new company before subsequently retiring.
Throughout his time with Berliet, he liked to remind everyone of the importance he attached to training his staff, research and development as well as setting up production plants in emerging countries.
Starting with a staff of 7,000 in 1950, by 1978, Berliet employed a workforce of over 25,000.
During this period, with his encouragement and approval, Berliet took part in major expeditions through Chad and the Ténéré region of the Sahara at the beginning of the 60s. He also set up production plants in Morocco and Algeria. It was at this time that Paul Berliet frequently had meetings with foreign Heads of State, some of which led to the signing of groundbreaking contracts (particularly those involving Cuba and China) and the setting up of overseas branches. He particularly stood out for his command of people skills, the respect he had for his partners and his talent for contact in the field.
There was a considerable amount of foreign expansion at this time, but also in France. In 1964 he set up the Bourg-en-Bresse production plant, the Axle plant at Saint Priest in 1970, as well as the gearbox plant at Andrézieux-Bouthéon.
A number of technical achievements marked the period during which he headed the Berliet company. These ranged from the gigantic T100 truck designed for Saharan oil production sites to the Stradair, a vehicle with height adjustable air suspension, as well as the use of direct injection and air cooled turbo compression. His flair for technical development was also demonstrated in passenger transport via the company's Coach and Bus division.
Paul Berliet set up the Berliet Automobile Foundation in January 1982 and, as its President, took charge of developing and extending its scope and influence until 2009, when he left this position, continuing as its Founding President.
This Foundation had the twin aims of preserving the memory of automobiles in the Lyon region and also that of French truck building history. It made available an impressive body of quality documentation and restored vehicles to "foster understanding of the present via the past and thereby have a better vision of the future".
Renault Trucks will always remember Paul Berliet as a man who could be approached by everyone, with a huge knowledge of motor manufacturing and a perfect command of oral skills combined with an amazing memory - all of which were coupled with exemplary modesty and friendliness. He was a person everyone respected.