Those who long for the quirky return of French cars by Peugeot and Citroën, may be elated today, depending on how you take the news of PSA Peugeot Citroën’s three-part plan to enter the U.S. Market. Peugeot has been absent from American shores since 1991. Citroën has not been available since 1974. That’s a long absence for the huge French carmaker.
PSA is three car brands, Peugeot, Citroën and DS. Citroën is expected to get the biggest infusion of new product, with up to 12 new vehicles by 2021. DS will get five new global models during the same timeframe, while Peugeot will launch nine new automobiles. The announcement also revealed that PSA plans to launch seven plug-in hybrids and four pure-electric vehicles in the next five years.
If you are looking to buy a PSA car, however, the return to America will not be quite that simple. The carmaker outlined an unorthodox three-part plan it calls “Push to Pass.” Part one involves becoming a partner in a car-sharing service. That means partnering with companies like Uber or Lyft, which gives PSA the opportunity to study the American market with a low buy-in.
Part two involves adding its own products into the car sharing services. If, and only if, PSA is successful in its initial two phases will it proceed to part three. “if we are successful, if our products in our fleets are well appreciated by consumers, we will go to the third step, which is to sell our own brands’ products in North America, eventually with local sourcing,” said Carlos Tavares, chief executive at PSA. The premium DS is expected to spearhead PSA’s American efforts.
PSA was in financial catastrophe only three short years ago. But the company has more than stabilized – in 2015 it soared to its highest profitability in 14 years. PSA’s turnaround was given a big assist by the French government. However, Tavares said the company needs to be successful in the biggest markets to truly be profitable over the long haul. “To be profitable and sustainable, you have to be in the three largest markets,” he said, naming the USA, Europe and China. Although PSA is present in Europe and China, the USA has been the missing link.
The new products should create excitement about the various brands. The hybrids, EV and one-ton pickup truck are all new product categories for the company. PSA also aims to expand its facilities in Algeria, India, Iran and Southeast Asia, all with an eye to competing worldwide.
So far response to the plan has been met with mixed results. Many do not see a true need for the brand in the USA since it would not add any variety that the Americans do not have already. Moreover, the French car has a checkered history in the US, with disasters like the 1983 Renault Alliance still in the rearview mirror. However, others think PSA’s plan to be cautious is a good one. Rather than jumping in with an ill-advised partner, the company has formed a team to discover what American consumers really want. They then plan to engineer cars just for the US market.
What do you think of PSA’s plans? Would you by a DS, Peugeot or Citroën?