Byline: John Revill
The Champagne was good - well, the French boss said it was and who was I to argue - as he surveyed the building site below.
Pierre Louis Colin had just dug a little bit of earth for the first foundations at Peugeot's new technical centre in Coventry.
Now, we were standing in the half-finished headquarters building overlooking a road which, in deference to the carmakers past, will be called Sunbeam Way.
The past is all around the site which, during World War II, made bomber engines - a situation which made it a target for the Luftwaffe.
Matt Brooks, senior contracts manager at Sisk Contractors who are carrying out the work, said: "Because the site was bombed, we had to have a specialist bomb detector come in to check for unexploded devices.
"We didn't find any, but we did find four big bomb shelters, which we have had to dig out with 50 ton diggers."
The new technology centre, which will train up to 140 dealers per day, is one part of the pounds 25 million development carried out for PSA Peugeot Citroen in Coventry.
It will replace the current technical centre, which could only cope with about 40.
Meanwhile the new HQ building will replace Alder-moor House, which was once a factory unit and has become outdated in recent years.
Mr Colin said: "Aldermoor House was OK, but it was not the most modern building. It would take about ten minutes to walk from one side to another. This is the first purpose-built headquarters building we have had in the UK. This is going to be a much better working environment for everyone."
The new building will cover approximately 13,000 sq mtrs on three floors, and has been designed by Leicester architects Stephen George & Partners.
It will feature a 300-seat auditorium to meetings with staff and dealers, when Aldermoor House only had space for 40.
The old building also couldn't accommodate any cars inside - rather important in the automotive industry.
With floor to ceiling glass walls, the new HQ will feature 517 automatic blinds which will react to sunlight and prevent the workers being dazzled while maximising the natural light.
The project, which began in April last year, is now at its halfway stage, and due to be completed by the end of this year. …