Posted by Barry Silverstein on April 20, 2010 12:21 PM
Among car brands, Peugeot has, of late, been a non-starter. As The Economist laments, "too many recent Peugeots, although well-made, have been dull to drive and ugly to look at."
That's why Jean-Marc Gales, who manages PSA's Peugeot brand, is excited about the launch this month of the RCZ coupe, which he says is "intended to announce a return to the virtues that made Peugeot great in the 1980s."
Indeed, the RCZ is just the first of a flurry of product introductions; 14 new Peugeot models will be launched over the next two years, according to Gales. It's a good thing, too, because it may be Peugeot's last chance to catch up to its competitors.
PSA, which owns Peugeot and Citroen, is the seventh largest automaker in the world, but it is hampered by being "over-reliant" on the European market. The real opportunity for Peugeot is in China, where PSA has only 3 percent market share, split between Peugeot and Citroen. Gales wants to increase that share to 8 percent by 2015.
Despite the introduction of the RCZ and other models, "unless Peugeot follows it up with more models that share its qualities, it will be a pointless digression." One of Peugeot's forthcoming models, the Mondeo-class 508, is being watched closely to determine if it will have "the dynamic ability to match its looks."
One of Peugeot's pressing challenges is that its parent company may have to build critical mass if it wants to be taken seriously as a global player.
A planned alliance between PSA and Mitsubishi fell through last month. Previous merger talks between Fiat and Peugeot also failed as Fiat instead took a 20 percent stake in Chrysler. Peugeot's rival Renault just announced a cooperative venture with Nissan and Daimler to jointly develop cars, putting even more pressure on PSA.
Clearly, PSA will need some big wins with its new Peugeot models if it expects to get back into the driver's seat.