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Peugeot to turn its fortunes around with new strategy

Recovery plan: Peugeot’s refreshed SUV portfolio will play a big role in its planned sales bounce-back.

Inchcape confirms commitment to Peugeot in Australia, despite plunging sales

1 Apr 2021

PEUGEOT Citroen Australia (PCA) says it is determined to achieve continual sales growth in the Australian market and will do so with a range of models that cement the “premium generalist” positioning of both French brands, starting with the facelifted 3008 and 5008 SUVs.


This comes in response to more than a decade of falling sales for Peugeot and Citroen – in particular since Inchcape assumed control of Australian distribution from Sime Darby in August 2017 – and despite previously stated aims by the head of the India-Pacific region for Peugeot-Citroen, Emmanuel Delay, of 50 per cent growth by 2022 under PCA’s new distributor.


PCA general manager Kate Gillis spoke to GoAuto at the facelifted 3008/5008 launch and confirmed that Inchcape remains “hugely committed” to turning around the French brand’s sales fortunes in our challenging market.


That process began in February with the launch of the all-new 2008 small SUV, followed by crucial new 3008 and 5008 models arriving in showrooms in March.


Peugeot will then begin the electrification of its range during the final quarter of 2021 with plug-in hybrid versions of the 3008 SUV and 508 Fastback, while simultaneously bolstering its line-up with an across-the-board update of its light commercial vehicles (Partner, Expert, Boxer).


We’ll also see Citroen’s new-generation C4 hatchback launch in the second half of 2021, followed by Peugeot’s recently unveiled, new-generation 308 early next year.


Regarding Peugeot’s move towards electrification, PR Manager Chloe Fraser stated that Peugeot’s forthcoming plug-in hybrids are “our first step in the electrification journey, and that will pave the way for electric models in 2022, a number of which are under consideration but no specific models (have been) confirmed as yet.”


Among those electric models are the e-2008 SUV and the e-208 small hatch, the latter of which remains likely for Australia in numerous forms – both combustion-engine and electric.


“(The new-gen 208 is) one that we’re still evaluating locally but we’re quite far down the path in terms of our evaluation,” said Ms Fraser. “Hopefully we’ll be able to unveil something in the next couple of months, but it’s definitely not something that’s off the table. We’re just considering what the right option will be for the Australian market.”


At the other end of the electrification spectrum is the fastest Peugeot to date, the 508 Peugeot Sport Engineered (PSE). Featuring a plug-in hybrid powertrain producing 265kW and 520Nm, driving through all four wheels, the 508 PSE is capable of 0-100km/h in 5.2 seconds and a limited top speed of 255km/h, as well as an electric-only range of up to 42km.


“It’s my absolute favourite vehicle,” said Ms Gillis regarding the 508 PSE. “Performance and Peugeot are something that have been hand in hand over many years, so we want to be able to continue that story here in Australia. But it’s still under consideration as to what that looks like for 2022.”


Ms Fraser added that “globally and locally, everyone involved at Peugeot is keen to see performance vehicles in markets that value performance, and that is Australia. So while [the 508 PSE] is ‘under consideration’, it does look favourable.”


The immediate step for Peugeot, however, is providing “visibility” to the brand, starting with sponsorship of the Alliance Francais French Film Festival currently playing around the country and providing Peugeot Boxer vans to Motorsport Australia as support vehicles for the Australian Rally Championship.


In terms of raising brand awareness, “there’s a bunch of things that we can hopefully talk about in the second half of the year when we start talking PHEV,” said Ms Gillis.


“It is probably obvious (sponsoring the Alliance Francais French film festival) but at the same time it’s exactly our audience. There’s a very large database of people and it’s the largest independent film festival globally.”


Peugeot’s core buyer profile covers “an older demographic, 35-plus, but also a younger audience with a slightly larger skew towards male” – the vast majority of which nominate “travel, film, theatre and cultural experiences” as their interests.


“Partnerships is one thing we’re working through at the minute,” said Ms Gillis. “There’s some really interesting opportunities for us in the second half of this year and then into 2022, so we’re quite pragmatic in our approach on that. We don’t want to sell our souls but we certainly want to make sure that we have the right partnerships that are fit for purpose. Telling our story is really important for us.”


That message includes combating the lingering perception that Peugeots and Citroens are unreliable and expensive to service.


“Our role is to ensure that we maintain a continual conversation with existing customers,” said Ms Gillis, “so we’re retaining them back into the brand, but also we’re talking to new customers in terms of the virtues of Peugeot and what it brings.


“Once people sit in our vehicles, they love them. And then once they’re driving them, they love them.


“So we’re slowly chipping away at reliability being an issue for us moving forward. It’s not going to happen overnight – that’s never going to happen. All we can do is keep chipping away at that issue, and it’s happening.


“We’re constantly evaluating what the market is doing, hence why we moved to a five-year warranty a little while ago. Service plans are another thing that we’re evaluating at the same time. We want to make sure that ownership of Peugeot, and Citroen as well, is easy and matches what the customer is really looking for.”


Ms Fraser pointed out that “once we get that generational change where people have been in these cars, see that they’re great cars and that they’re reliable vehicles, our reputation will begin to shift.”


The Australian market hasn’t been kind to Peugeot-Citroen sales in recent years, with numbers consistently falling year-on-year, from a peak of 8807 units for Peugeot in 2007 (backed by 3803 Citroen sales) to a low of 2129 sales last year (and a meagre 203 sales for Citroen).


During the first two months of 2021, sales were down a further 31 per cent for Peugeot and 38 percent for Citroen, though PCA remains adamant that things will turn around for its beleaguered brands.


“We’re very, very passionate about Peugeot, and of course Citroen,” said Ms Gillis. “Under Inchcape, we’ve built a very dedicated team of 18 people working directly on those brands, combined with the infrastructure and cross-departmental support of a multi-brand team – our legal team, our finance team – that work on both Subaru and Peugeot-Citroen.


“We’re hungry for the aspiration of further volume in this market, and we’re a very dedicated group of Peugeot-Citroen employees who want to see that happen. And we’re starting to see the fruits of that, just even in the early days of the new 2008 and 3008.”

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