By on March 14, 2016

Charles de Gaulle in a Citroen DS (Image: Gnotype/Flickr)

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.

[Sources: Automotive News, Car Advice, Wheels] [Image: Gnotype/Flickr (CC BY-SA 3.0)]

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82 Comments on “With Peugeot-Citroen Eyeing New Markets, Could There Be a French Car in Your Future?...”


  • avatar

    I’m not sure what “France” would have to put out to get me to stop spending money on S.R.T. products.

    It would have to be amazing.

    • 0 avatar
      2drsedanman

      @ BTR,

      Test drove a Scat Pack RT 6 speed over the weekend. Wow! Lot of bang for the buck for 38-39K. What’s your take?

    • 0 avatar
      npaladin2000

      So you prefer Italian over French? :)

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        FCA is a Dutch company, headquartered in London.

        • 0 avatar
          npaladin2000

          And how many “American” companies are headquartered in Bermuda or wherever? It’s an Italian company, I don’t care where the CEO’s PO box is. :)

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Why are Jeep and RAM Italian?

            You do realize that Bermuda is geographically part of the Americas, right?

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            Because they’re owned and run by an Italian company. The Renegade is even built in Italy, you did notice that, right? :)

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Very true. Except that FCA really is based in The Netherlands, and its HQ is in London.

            As it turns out, companies are from where they are actually from, not from where some guy called npaladin2000 says they are from for reasons he can’t articulate.

            Newsflash: Global carmakers build cars globally. Hondas are built in the US, Canada, Mexico and the UK. But they are incorporated in Japan and headquartered in Japan. Hence, Honda is a Japanese corporation.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            Let’s see, I can listen to some dude named VoGo…or I can pay attention to Wikipedia:

            “Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, also known as FCA, is an Italian-American multinational [7][8] and currently the world’s seventh-largest auto maker.[9] The group was established in 2014 by merging Fiat S.p.A. into a new holding company incorporated in the Netherlands with headquartered in London, UK. The holding company, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and Borsa Italiana in Milan.[10]”

            Italian-American multinational, traded on the NYSE and Borsa Italiana trumps being HQed in London and Incorporated in the Netherlands, which is sort of like being incorporated in Delaware (like pretty much every company) and having your HQ in the Tax Haven Islands (like pretty much every company). Nothing to do with the reality of company operations. Sergio and his band of merry men are in Italy, buying Italian sweaters and eating Italian food and probably doing other Italian stuff while they preside over making Italian cars.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            FCA is not Italian. Or Italian American. Just read their annual report from 2015:

            “On January 29, 2014, the Board of Directors of Fiat S.p.A. (“Fiat”) approved a proposed corporate reorganization resulting in the formation of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. and decided to establish Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., organized in the Netherlands, as the parent of the Group with its principal executive offices in the United Kingdom. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. was incorporated as a public limited liability company (naamloze vennootschap) under the laws of the Netherlands on April 1, 2014 under the name Fiat Investments N.V.
            On June 15, 2014, the Board of Directors of Fiat approved the terms of a cross-border legal merger of Fiat into its
            100 percent owned direct subsidiary Fiat Investments N.V. (the “Merger”), subject to several conditions precedent. ”

            Sergio works out of HQ in London. I can’t comment on what food he eats, but I know he doesn’t wear Italian suits – he’s a sweater guy.

            Your own source at Wikipedia confirms where Marchione works: “The CEO, executive management and around twenty-two employees operate out of London.”

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            Jesus H. does it f***ing matter?

      • 0 avatar

        The French have a phrase to denote something that will never happen. “La semaine des quatres jeudis” (figuratively translated, “the week of four saturdays”). That’s when BTSR will have a French car. And much as I like French cars, I think BTSR should stick to his automotive passions.

        In other matters, great shot of Le Grand Charles with the ’60s era DSes with the Paris plates (75). I’d be happy to see some French cars around here if they still had their individuality, but what I’d really like is a Peugeot 404 wagon. Unfortunately, 404s seem to have gone 404 in computer code parlance.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      ‘I’m not sure what “France” would have to put out to get me to stop spending money on S.R.T. products.”

      And, yet, entire brands exist which sell non-SRT products, and they sell a lot of cars to not-BTSR.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “The U.S. and Iran are being looked at as potential export markets”

    Lol, wat?

    “Eh, we could go to the US, or like Iran. Both look good.”

    That’s sort of like,

    “Oh, I could deposit all my savings with Credit Suisse, or perhaps the Royal Banke Chartre of Nigeria.”

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      Iran has a surprisingly big automotive market. Peugeot traditionally owned a large part of it with locally-built CKD cars. It’s a race between them and the Chinese to see who will come-out on top now that sanctions have been lifted.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        China has magnitudes more resources than struggling PSA, China wins.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          Yes, but PSA has strong business ties. They haven’t been out of Iran long, and they left very reluctantly.

          Iranians are more sophisticated consumers than your typical emerging market. They’ve had money and cars for a long while. They won’t be satisfied with just a basic Chinese car if they can help it.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Indeed it’s a very interesting place. The documentary I watched about the fall of the Shah in 1979 was fascinating.

          • 0 avatar
            nguyenvuminh

            AGreed heavy handle. WE don’t know nearly enough about Iran’s history other than the USGov’t-talk over the last 30 years. As for the French, we seem to think all they do is drink coffee and stomp grape to make wines. They make a helluvalot more than we’d like to think, like nuclear plants, subway transit system, power plants.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “but the company kept a corporate presence in the country until just three years ago.”

    Yes, that man was Michael Karesh’s neighbor. He drove a Peugeot RC. What happeeeen to him!?

  • avatar
    RobertRyan

    Standalone dealership in Australia? Non existent and not probable. Still PSA, Renault Vans are doing reasonably well, you do see PSA badged cars around.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    The same rumor was going around in 2008. I don’t think the US is a big priority for them, nor should it be. It’s not a growth market, and it’s not a very profitable market if you don’t sell full-size pickups and generic crossovers.

    DS is supposed to release 4 new models over the next 3-4 years. Their current lineup is nothing to write home about.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Yep, on all counts. Without the C6 they are nothing! And when I think of interesting French stuff, mostly Renault models come to mind. Like the Avantime (or other French cars which aren’t made anymore like the Xantia, SM, XM, or Xsara).

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    Let’s get that DS5 in brown with the high-output diesel. I mean – they claim it’s the best combination of estate wagon and hot hatch… America needs something to fill the hole left by the 200 once FIAT fully kills it.

    • 0 avatar
      qfrog

      The hole is already filled by other cars in the competitive landscape, the ones that the 200 tried to compete with but didn’t and is now discontinued.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      the US is a saturated market. you’ve got to come in with something notable that the existing competition doesn’t have if you want to be successful. Goofy-looking pieces of junk aren’t going to cut it.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    I don’t expect those brands to ever return to the US.

  • avatar

    I sure hope so…an SM…some day…

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    “Could there be a French car in your future?” Not unless it had a big block 454 and four speed. Also acceptable would be a 440 or 426 with TorqueFlite.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I wish I could buy a brand new 9000 CSE Turbo.

  • avatar
    Rday

    I am not sure which cars are the worst. French or Italian. Anyone willing to spend their money on these problem products probably deserves the problems that they will soon have. But how does that old saying go…A sucker is born every minute.

    • 0 avatar

      These days, the Italians are definitely the worst. Renault and PSA have really pulled up their pants on the design, quality, and reliability aspects. Now are now almost universally good looking, well-built, and well (or if not well, at least uniquely) designed. Put it this way: If the UK, a country that has pretty much no love for anything French, buys lots of French cars, then that says a lot.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        I find it weird that people say the UK has “no love” for the French, all the while they’ve incorporated a lot of French “distortions” into the language (“programme,” using “aubergine” and “courgette” instead of eggplant and zucchini respectively.)

  • avatar

    PSA seems like the perfect merger partner for FCA. What do you think Sergio?

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    FCA recently told FIAT dealers they no longer need standalone FIAT stores.

    Let all those dealers move FIAT into the Chrysler-Dodge-RAM stores, and poof! all those FIAT showrooms are available to sell Citroens in!

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      These Fiat dealerships probably sold Suzukis. And before that Daewoos. Maybe Daewoos which were badged as Suzukis. And Saabs, including Subarus and Oldsmobiles badged as Saabs.

      Perhaps Alfa-Romeos. And Sterlings, and before that Renaults. So they may already be fluent in French.

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    Now we’ll see if Americans really want European cars (hint: mostly no).

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      But you mainly drive rehashed European or Japanese/Korean cars

      • 0 avatar
        npaladin2000

        But it’s the (re)hashment process that’s important. First of all, you have to make the car bigger. Then you have to make the engine bigger. Then you have to replace the suspension with overdone marshmallows. Add extra width to the seat, and then you’re close.

        Note that Kia doesn’t sell the c’eed here. Opels get Buick-ified. And Hoyonda have separate model lines for Europe and the US.

        Americans claim to want Euro handling (and I and most enthusiasts actually do want it and are willing to make the trade-offs.) But most Americans miss their Ford LTDs and are looking for that ride, no matter how much they claim otherwise. ;)

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          “But it’s the (re)hashment process that’s important. First of all, you have to make the car bigger. Then you have to make the engine bigger. Then you have to replace the suspension with overdone marshmallows. Add extra width to the seat, and then you’re close.”
          Making the car bigger, the engine bigger…No. Redesign the exterior highly probable. Suspension softened, handling deteriorates
          Ceeded is not sold here either. Opels are Opels, not ” Buified”

        • 0 avatar
          Hydromatic

          So does that explain why the vast majority of Americans seem content to buy and ride in pickup trucks with MSRPs starting well north of $40k?

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            Pretty much, yeah.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            Pickups make pretty poor Sports Sedans, but you can put 4-5 people in them

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            5-6 in an 80″ wide full-size pickup.

          • 0 avatar
            Frylock350

            Can confirm, I bought and ride one of said trucks. If the b-body station wagon still lived; I’d own that instead. Modern cars/SUVs suffer from a narrowness problem (80″ wide is awesome for travel) and a can’t-tow-anything problem. Today’s Silverado is yesterday’s Roadmaster.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      This is what people don’t understand- we already get all of the *good* European cars. The ones we don’t get would flop because they’re cheap pieces of junk.

  • avatar
    Menloguy

    Citroen’s current lineup is pretty lackluster and their technology and styling are pretty derivative of their European counterparts. They are a far cry from their once fiercely unique technology and styling from decades ago. I rented a C4 in Spain and it didn’t leave much of an impression as an older BX, GSA or a CX would have. I don’t think there isn’t much to differentiate a C4 from say a Hyundai Elantra GT or a Ford Focus hatchback. The C5 sedan is almost Germanic in its styling. I don’t see much traction in terms of sales occurring if PSA were to reenter the US market.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    Maybe PSA will listen to the TTAC peanut gallery and pick up all those VW dealers about to be abandoned by Volkswagen…LOL.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’m thinking anyone who actually remembers French cars will be absolutely opposed to buying one.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Come on, admit it: you’re privately salivating over the prospects of getting your hands on a Renault LeCrossover.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      I know a few people who’ve owned French cars. Eagle Medallion, Peugeot 405, Renault 5 (Le Car). Not counting the Jeep Cherokee (XJ) which was designed partly by Renault.

      In all cases, those people miss those cars to this day. Nothing else rides as nice. Not even close. They weren’t particularly troublesome either.

      Of course, today’s French cars are more “generic European.” Back in the day, French cars had unique engineering solutions in terms of layout, suspension, etc. There’s not so much difference anymore between a French car and a European Ford, or GM/Opel, or VW. Maybe a bit better ride than the Germans, and better value for money, but all the components are basically the same.

  • avatar
    derekson

    If PSA is going to engineer cars to be federalized for the US market, then they’re almost a lock to be the next manufacturers of compact and mid-sizers for FCA.

    • 0 avatar
      Acd

      +1. This makes sense for both PSA and FCA. PSA can sell more cars without having to spend a lot of money on setting up a US dealer network, US FCA dealers will still have mid-size and compact cars to sell in their showrooms and FCA can spend more time and money on vehicles that actually make them money like trucks and Jeeps.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Brisbane

    I have owned two Citroens and my current daily driver is a C5. I love the way it drives and it is not “high maintenance” as many of you seem to think. It’s ride certainly puts a Ford Galaxy to shame. However, Citroen is dropping the Hydractive suspension so there is no Citroen in my future.

  • avatar
    ArialATOMV8

    I’ve been kinda skeptical of French Cars (except the legendary Pegeot 405gti)

    However, I’d admit that they have definitely gotten more attractive to look at. I can’t imagine cars like a Renault Twizzy and a Citröen C4 Cactus, driving around over here!

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    Is that a BMW police motorcycle?

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    Did anybody watch that Mythbusters episode where they attempted to make a motorcycle from a Citroen 2CV? I’m amazed how easily that car was field stripped with some really basic tools. Great episode if you haven’t seen it.

  • avatar
    lon888

    If this does come to pass, put me down for a new Citroen DS3 and a “72 DS23 and a “75 SM. Merci beaucoup.


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