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Hybrid4 vital for Peugeot’s survival

Green tinge: The Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4 diesel-electric variant will arrive on our shores next year.

World’s second oldest car-maker embraces change as the solution for staying relevant

Peugeot logo19 Jul 2011

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

PEUGEOT says its Hybrid4 diesel-electric 3008 and 508 crossover models due next year are essential in moving the brand forward in Australia.

Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the new 508 sedan and wagon range in Melbourne last week, Peugeot Automobiles Australia director Ken Thomas said he did not want the French company left behind while other brands like Toyota, Nissan, and Renault move forward with the gradual electrification of their vehicles.

Mr Thomas said that while Peugeot’s upcoming hybrid models might bring incremental sales volume, their primary role in Australia will be to demonstrate the historic European brand is ready to meet changing consumer demand.

“It’s certainly not going to be for volume’s sake that we bring in Hybrid4 to Australia,” he said.

“The purpose of it for Australia is to communicate what our brand is all about. Yes it is also about servicing a growing need, but everything will not be the same forever.

“You always have to be ready for change, because who knows what tomorrow will bring? “From my point of view, if I make the wrong decision about not going forward with a hybrid strategy and I miss that opportunity for the Australian Design Rules and all the engineering tests that you have to go through, then I could end up being hugely regretful of that.”

23 center imageLeft: Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4. Below: Peugeot 508 RXH crossover.

The local Peugeot chief said his brand’s ground-breaking diesel-electric crossovers were not just a good fit for Australia, but could suit business customers with their lower cost of ownership.

“We are doing Hybrid4 strategically as the next step in communicating what we stand for, and that includes lowering emissions. I think it is helpful in explaining who we are in terms of an organisation and I think it is a good opportunity for Peugeot to talk to business about product that might actually work for them as well.

“Yes it is unknown territory for us, but if it all works out as far as getting all the go-ahead ticks in terms of engineering going, then I’ll be very happy to go ahead with the Hybrid4 in this country.

“It is like any leap of faith. Sometimes you have to listen to your intuition to see this sort of thing working and secondly we’ve come to learn the hybrid’s advantages so we can see its applicability to this market.” Mr Thomas added that the superior efficiency, driveability and usability of the Hybrid4 models – especially the 508 Touring-based RXH Hybrid that will debut at September’s Frankfurt motor show – will be unique selling features, since Japanese hybrids hitherto available in Australia have packaging and dynamic limitations.

“Consumers are saying they are looking for hybrid solutions,” he said. “But they also have some practical needs as well, for they have to be able to fit in their kids and their business requirements or whatever.

“So there’s always a balance of new technology and the application of how it will be used, and there are a number of concepts out there that lack that sort of practicality. I believe there will be a consumer backlash against impractical hybrids – not just concerning how much they will cost, but also if they’re actually usable.

“Plus, the marriage between Peugeot’s electric motor and diesel engine is a happier one for feel, power and smoothness… it’s a natural synergy that can exist between two powerplants.” When it comes to how much either Hybrid4 model will cost, Mr Thomas refused to speculate on what kind of price premium customers should expect over their conventional counterparts once the 3008 and 508 Hybrid4s land here in the second and third quarter of 2012 respectively.

“I won’t even begin to try and speculate,” he said. “It’s far too early.

“But I think hybrids in general are going to become a lot like mobile phones – that is, more affordable - so when at one time it used to be prohibitively expensive to buy a hybrid over a standard combustion engine, it will only be a matter of time before all those expensive elements will disappear – especially when it comes to the storage of power… look at how mobile phone batteries have reduced in size and price.

“I think this is the evolution we all need to embrace. It is an important step forward for bridging the gap between the traditional internal combustion engine and the fuel cell vehicles of the future.” Finally, Mr Thomas denied that head office in France has forced the Australian arm’s hand in taking on the Hybrid4 models.

“No, not at all,” he said. “Nothing is. We very much make our own course.

“Of course we have to put up a business case and even today a business case for hybrid is yet to be finally signed off.

“Any sort of vehicle like that requires an enormous amount of ADR and related engineering work… they have to be satisfied that the vehicle will suit the market, cope with certain environmental issues – because one of the big concerns with any hybrid car is heat since too much ambient heat can affect its performance – and all that sort of stuff needs to be checked before we say it is suitable for Australia.

“But there’s no lack of will on our part.”

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