Yesterday PSA (Peugeot, Citroën, DS and now Opel and Vauxhall) announced that it is taking its first significant step to re-enter the U.S. market by naming former TrueCar and Nissan executive Larry Dominique to spearhead the project.
Dominique, 54, will be senior vice president for PSA North America, in charge of putting the automaker back on these shores for first time since the Peugeot brand exited in 1991.
“This is a market that, as a full-line automaker, you need to be part of,” Dominique told Automotive News via phone Wednesday as he toured U.S. cities to select a location for the company’s headquarters. He might want to put Las Vegas on the top of his list because this going to be one huge gamble for the company.
Dominique reiterated the “Push to Pass” strategy that PSA Chairman Carlos Tavares announced on April 5, 2016 as a 10-year project, saying; “It’s not about jumping in and creating market share as quickly as possible.”
“With the creation of the PSA North American entity, PSA Group makes an important step forward in the roll-out of our project to progressively enter the region” said Carlos Tavares, Chairman of the Managing Board. “Moving forward, we will ramp up our mobility activities and the development of car-sharing services, among other efforts. Today we start with our partner TravelCar.”
TravelCar comes under PSA’s mobility brand, Free2Move, which is to include various interests in this new means of automobile utilization where we see players today like Uber and Lyft. TravelerCar commenced serving Los Angeles on April 3 with a different twist; by giving free airport parking to drivers who wish to rent out their cars while traveling. The service is designed to optimize cars ensuring they rarely go unused, providing advantageous solutions to car owners (free or reduced-price parking) and for rental customers rates about 50% less expensive than with a traditional car rental companies.
Actually, PSA’s The first mobility effort in the USA started indirectly through a partnership with battery company Bollore, which runs an electric car-sharing program in Indianapolis called BlueIndy. That partnership is now running an electric car-sharing pilot program in Los Angeles dubbed BlueLA, with 100 vehicles and 200 charging stations.
PSA’s plan is to begin populating its mobility services with its vehicles, then ultimately launch its own sales channel. Dominique said that PSA has not decided which of its three brands — Peugeot, Citroën or DS — will be launched here. Nor has it decided whether retailing will occur through a traditional independent dealership-based distribution network or some other way. He declined to say how much PSA is prepared to spend to re-establish a U.S. foothold. “It’s going to be a significant amount of money to re-enter the market,” he said. “But we haven’t set a number.”
Dominique said PSA will study the market as it rolls out its 10-year plan, using its interactions with consumers in mobility settings to learn what they like and don’t like about vehicles. He went on to say that PSA is taking a clean-slate approach to re-entering the United States; “The reality is that Peugeot as a brand left the United States 26 years ago,” he said. “The marketplace is so different today. What happened back then — what went right, what might have gone wrong, the reasons for the exit — to me are irrelevant now. The brands themselves, the vehicles that PSA produces are so different than their positioning back then.” They most certainly are different than in that era but is there sufficient differentiation today between PSA’s offerings and those from already established brands here that will have consumers here wanting them?
Dominique has over 30 years’ experience in the U.S. automotive industry, having worked at General Motors, Chrysler, Nissan – and most recently- serving as President of Automotive Lease Guide (ALG) and Executive Vice President of TrueCar.
Dominique’s new assignment reunites him with Tavares as he headed Nissan’s product development for the Americas, which first brought him together with Tavares, who was then in charge of Nissan’s global product planning in Japan. Tavares became Nissan’s chairman for the Americas in Nashville, with Dominique working for him in charge of product planning for the region.
Since moving from Renault-Nissan Alliance to PSA, Tavares has taken PSA from near-bankruptcy to its highest profitability in 14 years, with the help of a rescue from the French government. And last month he led PSA to acquire the European Opel/Vauxhall subsidiary of General Motors.
The PSA North American entity will report to PSA Group’s Corporate Planning and Programs, led by Executive Vice President Patrice Lucas.