PSA Peugeot Citroën announced the company will spell out international growth plans on April 5. As part of that announcement it is expected that they will formally announce a return to the North American market.
Though we have heard these rumors before, we take this latest one seriously as Automotive News published an article on March 14 stating the same. As part of that story they interviewed Richard Lucki, who managed PSA’s affairs here, based in Detroit and driving a C6, until 2013 when the company closed its Detroit office and left the United States. (Lucki played a key role in General Motors purchase of 7% of PSA Peugeot Citroën in February 2012, which they divested a mere 16 months later). Though Lucki stated that during the years PSA kept its office in Detroit, it was always with an eye toward returning someday, he also pointed out that PSA’s road back to North America would be complex because the company has neither a manufacturing base nor a dealer network. “Pricing is an issue. Everyone else — Audi, BMW, Mercedes — has manufacturing here,” Lucki said.
With PSA Peugeot Citroën now profitable, CEO Carlos Tavares is turning his attention to international growth. Company officials revealed to Automobilwoche, a sibling publication of Automotive News, this month at the Geneva Auto Show, that the first two markets being considered are North America and Iran. They also indicated that Citroën’s fledgling upscale DS brand could lead the company’s export efforts.
“Our Back in the Race restructuring program has been successfully completed,” DS brand chief Yves Bonnefont told Automobilwoche. “Now comes the next step. And this has put the issue of the U.S. on the table.”
The DS brand is expected to get six new models by 2020, all engineered for global markets.
If PSA is returning to Canada and the USA we hope their strategy this time is well conceived. Citroën sold its last car in the United States in 1974, and Peugeot did so in 1991. Both faded away because of an abysmal dealer network and poor customer service. Marketing was bush league compared to the likes of VW, Mercedes Benz and the upstart Japanese imports.
It’s a new game now and to be successful, they can capitalize on social media with an extensive grassroots marketing effort. They can even mimic the internet sales strategy of Tesla, and have showrooms in just the major North America cities, but they will also need to adopt a customer 1st service approach, particularly in the parts and service department and have parts readily at hand. Even so, what differentiates a PSA’s offerings (particularly DS) is really nothing more that style these days. Will French flair go over big here or will it trounced by a preference for the established brands (BMW, Mercedes, and rejuvenated Jauguar, Fiat, Volvo and VW… the list goes on) already firmly established here?
We don’t think we’d like to be holding the chips as PSA shareholders on this one.