Here is a translation of an extract from a French press report of the closure of the Jouef factory in Sept 2001
our correspondent in Lons-Le-Saunier - summer 2001
It is a small tinplate model, designed in 1948: 'Algers-Tombouctou', the first miniature train manufactured in France by Jouef. The gathering of collectors organised on July 8th 2001, in the village hall of Champagnole (in the Jura), by the employees of the firm, which was in the process of being taken over, could have been festive. It was sad.
"Jouef, the French market leader in model trains, is about to cease its production in France" This simple official statement on June 1, meant that the Italian group Rivarossi had decided to close the factory at Champagnole, the last place where the famous Jouef trains were manufactured. Fifty-eight employees still worked for the firm, which in its heyday had more than a thousand, distributed amongst five other Jurassic communes.
Founded in 1944, in the heart of the Jura, under the direction of George Huard, 'Le Jouet Français', became Jouef, and quickly cut a solid reputation in the 1950's while manufacturing a replica of the famous engine BB-9004 of the SNCF. (which held the World Speed record in 1955). More recently, its TGV models were a great commercial success. However it was much too late. Since the middle of the 70's, the firm had experienced the ups and downs of the commercial world under the control of several owners. In 1995, Jouef was legally already the victim of a take-over, following which SME was taken over again by Rivarossi, chaired by Paolo Prandi. Today, Mr. Prandi intends to remove the Jouef moulds to Lima (sic), in Italy, to continue the manufacture of Jouef trains there.
"The firm in Champagnole was accumulating a high level of losses which made closure inevitable" justifies the Director. Jouef lost 1 million francs at the end of April. The crisis between the traditional toy and the less expensive competition imported from Asia or from the Far East , involved the loss of significant markets. This meant surplus stocks and increased requirements for investment. "The model train market is very hungry for capital", explained a spokes-person from Jouef. The cost of a mould, which can exceed a million francs, is not easily recoverable with small production runs."
However Rivarossi had decided to forsake the popular model trains and to redefine Jouef to manufacture collector's models, which did not have enough sales. "When a collector buys a TGV for more than 1000 francs (€100), he seldom buys two of them " commented another director.
"The turnover from the hypermarkets fell from 11 million francs to 2 million francs in 2000" remarked a spokesman for the firm's shop committee, Domenica Capelli, who suggested that the Rivarossi group had not invested enough capital into the new top-of-the-range marketing. The analysis of the union representative of CGT, Jean-Claude Marty, was not much different. The Italian group, which had presented two successive rescue packages, could, he thinks maintain part of the activities on the Jurassic site, "for example the manufacture of rails "
"Jouef " had tried to postpone the inevitable by calling for a report from the receivers. Some of these proposals suggested the liquidation of the firm, which would make it possible, according to them, to find a buyer more easily. The firm's shop committee requested a report from a Lyons firm of financial experts and accountants, Secafi Alpha, whose conclusions will be revealed on Monday July 23. That pushes back the closure date, since the employees will be on summer holidays until mid-August.
Footnote: The factory closed in September 2001
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