With the Saab brand now functionally dead, could the next quirky car du jour for individuality-signalling Americans come from France?
All eyes will be on PSA Peugeot Citroen on April 5 as France’s top automaker reveals its new international growth strategy, possibly heralding a return to the long-abandoned U.S. market.
The U.S. and Iran are being looked at as potential export markets, now that PSA’s “Back in the Race” restructuring program has improved the financial fortunes of the once-struggling automaker.
PSA has posted a profit for the past two years, and, as part of the company’s turnaround, has split off its former Citroen-badged DS vehicles into a separate, upscale make. Opening up new markets is now priority number one.
At the very least, DS would be a “natural candidate” for North America, according to comments made to Automobilwoche by brand chief Yves Bonnefont.
Citroen and Peugeot left the American market in 1974 and 1991, respectively, but the company kept a corporate presence in the country until just three years ago.
Famous for making former French president and general Charles de Gaulle’s favorite vehicle — the innovative and beloved Citroen DS — as well as classic sedans like the Peugeot 504, PSA has an impressive history to capitalize on.
However, with no dealer network on this side of the Atlantic, making inroads into North America would be a costly and risky endeavor.
The DS brand contains four hatchback models, while Citroen and Peugeot expand PSA’s lineup considerably further. As far as model recognition goes, only Citroen’s offbeat C4 Cactus has any resonance in the U.S., and that could easily be traced to a handful of enthusiastic automotive journalists.
In Australia, the most isolated market for PSA vehicles, sales of Citroens and Peugeots have slumped recently, and the DS line is forgoing any standalone dealerships for the time being. If you want a DS down under, it will come out of an existing Citroen showroom.
The whiz-enfants at PSA’s Paris headquarters are going to have their work out for them determining if there’s sufficient consumer demand for a company that hasn’t sold a single car in their country in decades.