PSA Peugeot Citroën Eyeing U.S. Comeback
French automaker studying feasibility of bringing its two brands back to the U.S. marketby Kirby Garlitos, on
There was a point in time not long ago where the thought of seeing Peugeot and Citroën models in the U.S. would’ve been laughable. But times have changed and the French economy has improved to the extent that PSA Peugeot Citroën, the parent company of both French automakers, is now seriously considering a comeback in the U.S. market.
Those plans aren’t definite yet, but Automotive News sister site Automobilewoche is reporting that PSA is scheduled to unveil an international expansion plan on April 5, 2016 that puts the U.S. and Iranian markets as its two top priorities. Speaking with Automobilewoche, DS brand chief Yves Bonnefort expressed optimism that the upscale brand could generate a lot of interest in the U.S. market. The brand is devoid of models at this point, but there are plans to expand it to include as many as six global models by 2020. If PSA pushes forward with going back to the U.S., the DS brand, when it’s in full bloom, could have the biggest impact as a natural competitor to established brands like Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Lexus, and Infiniti.
While there is some understandable optimism and excitement behind the return of the French brands in U.S. soil, PSA executive Richard Lucki remains cautious on what the company can expect in the market. Lucki, after all, knows a thing or two about the U.S. market, having ran the company’s U.S. outpost in Detroit until it was shut down in 2013. According to Lucki, returning to the U.S. isn’t as simple as some are making it out to be. There are issues with a manufacturing base, something PSA doesn’t have in that region. It also doesn’t have a dealership network. The absence of these critical sales elements could make pricing for Peugeot and Citroën models a little tricky.
Even with these admittedly sensible issues, it does look like the U.S. market is as close as it has ever been to seeing Peugeot and Citroën return. The former hasn’t been in the U.S. since 1991 while the latter’s absence dates further back to 1974. If PSA’s international expansion plan bears fruit, the days of not seeing both French models in U.S. roads could be numbered.
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Why it matters
Anytime an automaker returns to a big market where it hasn’t been since 1974, you know it’s going to be a big deal. That’s a big reason why a lot of people, myself included, are eagerly anticipating what comes out of PSA’s internal expansion plan. The return to the U.S. market is the big story here, but there’s also that plan to enter Iran, which I’m actually more fascinated by than anything. For now, let’s talk about the U.S. market and what it could mean for the French automaker.
The big takeaway here is that PSA seems to think that it’s in stable enough shape that it can handle the competition that comes with going back to the U.S. That’s a bold statement if the company pushes through with that plan. From my perspective, I don’t think it’s a smart idea to bring all three brands back at the same time. That not only adds more cars to the segment, but in some ways, having Peugeot and Citroën back at the same time essentially makes them compete against each other. If I were PSA, the first brand I’m bringing to the U.S. is DS, not only because that market seems to have embraced upscale brands like Mercedes and BMW like never before, but more importantly, it’s a fresh brand that U.S. customers can really get on board with. The downside to that is that DS only has a handful of models to offer and it won’t be in full strength for another four years.
That’s where I think either Peugeot or Citroën can help. Have one of the two brands enter first along with DS before bringing in the other brand. That way, PSA can establish a presence in the U.S. without worrying about two of its brands cannibalizing each other’s attempts for a bigger piece of sales pie. Once one brand is firmly established, then the company can bring in the other. That’s what I would do, even though I know that nothing has been finalized yet. Who knows, maybe the French automaker has different plans in mind. What I do know is that a lot will be answered on April 5 and I can’t wait to see what comes out of that.
Read our full review on the DS E-Tense Concept here.
Source: Automotive News