PSA’s CEO Carlos Tavares confirmed on Feb 26 that the company will reintroduce Peugeot vehicles as part of a 10-year plan to sell cars again in North America.

Larry Dominique, PSA’s North America chief, stated that Peugeot is the “best fit” for the North American market, based on consumer awareness of the brand and emerging demographics. “There’s over 1,500 Peugeots still registered and running in the U.S.,” Dominique said. “Ironically, the highest concentration is in Alabama.” (PSA’s new North American headquarters is in Atlanta.)

Peugeot exited the U.S. market in 1991, driven out by a recession, slumping sales and the rising costs of U.S. regulations. The company had sold just 4,292 cars in 1990, nearly 80 percent below 1984 levels.

“Even though Peugeot left in 1991, the awareness of the brand and the opinion of the brand are still strong,” Dominique said. “So, we have a strong starting point with which to start the discussion with consumers.”

Peugeot 508

Dominique declined to elaborate on the North American product road map, distribution and retail models, or even when Peugeots might be available. However, Tavares did say that rather than rebuilding a traditional dealer network from scratch, the group has identified a “creative and disruptive way to distribute our cars.”

This Peugeot push in North America is hardly surprising to us. As we have pointed out before, since Peugeot has taken priority position in PSA, from the boardroom down to moves like closing C42 on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and relocating the Le Conservatoire’s Citroën vehicles to The Musée de l’Aventure Peugeot (Museum of the Peugeot Adventure), Citroën has been disregarded as the leading brand within the PSA conglomerate.

In the past few years, new Citroëns that sported quirky innovation (like C4 Cactus) but were relegated to be the budget brand of PSA, and all new models have had a “Peugeot equivalent” on the market. The C4 Cactus even got a homogenized restyle.

Original C4 Cactus
Restyled C4 Cactus removing the side “air bumps” and adding like model-range grill.

PSA has used Citroën to tout innovation but, other than C4 Cactus, we have not seen their wild concepts come to fruition as production models. With their latest Ami One Concept being a 4-wheeled urban vehicle that ties in more with the urban scooter ride-share movement, Citroën innovation is being showcased to give credibility to PSA’s FreeToMove program. Citroën CEO, Linda Jackson, has said that the CXPERIENCE Concept will become a new model, but one can bet that development of that will result in a Peugeot equivalent being introduced along-side it.

CXPERIENCE Concept

So really, what is the value of the Citroën name going forward?

Looking at the economics of keeping Opel, Vauxhall, Peugeot and Citroën as automobile brands of PSA, and let’s not forget DS, where Citroën innovation and luxury was rebranded on the laurels of Citroën’s past achievements with the original DS and the SM, it’s not hard to imagine that Citroën as an automobile manufacturer will no longer exist in the not too distant future. We said back in February 2014, when Peugeot inked a €3bn deal with Dongfeng and France, that Citroën will inevitably be a casualty. The automotive industry has been and will continue to undergo consolidation and downsizing, as a result of globalization and market demand.

The 100th-anniversary celebrations of Citroën this year may well be the last hurrah for the double chevrons. As they have been rounded out and blended into PSA (with no alteration of the Peugeot lion logo by the way), so will the Citroën name be relegated to the design and engineering labs of PSA. They will spin the historical attributes of Citroën as still being in the DNA of the company, but the brand recognition, as far as current cars are concerned, will be forfeited to DS (read Peugeot luxury marque) and Citroën, the company, will have no operational expense within PSA other than some personnel as a component of PSA’s concept design lab.

It has been a battle from the day that Peugeot took control over Citroën back in 1974 as to which one would survive. Frankly, we are amazed Citroën has survived the in the grip of the lion for as long as it has. Along the way, spurts of unabashed Citroën brilliance have appeared, (the BX, Xantia, and C6), but the means of unencumbered model development that existed in Citroën since its inception in 1919 was gone by the mid-1970s.

The fact that PSA has announced their return to North America touting Peugeot as the brand they will offer here, states volumes as to what their market intention is world-wide for brand recognition.

So, farewell Citroën – it’s been a great ride. And for those of us fortunate to own one (or more), we can enjoy the true brand’s astounding automotive achievements of the 20th century well into the 21st, as long as we can still fuel them.