QOTD: PSA, Renault Cars Lack "Ambition"

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
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qotd psa renault cars lack ambition

“When you do everything right but too late, you do it all wrong. Before reaching a dead end, PSA decided to forge a partnership with a manufacturer [General Motors] that I don’t consider to be among the industry’s leaders of the pack. Overall, I think there is a lack of ambition [when it comes to product] from the French manufacturers.”

Thierry Morin, former CEO of Valeo

Given how much love there is in certain sections of TTAC for PSA products – the Citroen C6, for example – this quote seems like a dagger in the heart for some readers. I profess a profound affection for the C6, the DS range and even newer Peugeots like the 208 and 508. Renault’s lineup, particularly the Renaultsport cars, are undeniably enticing and I one day hope to be the world’s preeminent scholar of Dacia’s impact on the auto industry.

Viewed through a North American lens (i.e. the grass is greener on the Continent), I can’t say I find French cars to lack ambition. On the contrary, I find their styling and packing quite bold and innovative. I dare anyone not to look at the C6 above and be dumbstruck by its elegance. But there’s the undeniable fact that French cars are non-entities in virtually every market save for France and Iran (where Peugeot is a big player).

Morin cites the lack of powerful engines as a reason for the decline of French cars and their inability to maintain a premium position, but French cars have never been about big power. The Renaultsport lineup is consistently praised by the enthusiast press, and is popular enough that when Renault’s lineup was all but eliminated in the UK to make way for Dacia, the Renaultsport cars were spared the executioner’s axe due to their strong sales.

And then, Morin hits on what may be the ultimate reason behind the decline of French cars relative to the competition

Year after year, the gap widens between German and French car manufacturers. Germans, just like the Japanese, always deliver better cars to market. They are really passionate about cars and they are focused on improving everything about their cars from one generation to the next. When you get in an Audi A1, it is exceptionally refined for such a small car and it echoes the premium-ness of the bigger A6 or A8. While German CEOs are real ‘car guys,’ in France, many people thought that being a wise and talented executive was enough to be successful in the automotive business. It proved wrong sometimes. This lack of obsession is the main difference between France and Germany. I think that being too disconnected from the product is a problem.

Stop me if you’ve heard that before.

Derek Kreindler
Derek Kreindler

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  • Marcelo de Vasconcellos Marcelo de Vasconcellos on Oct 22, 2012

    As to leadership, they have a point. Marchionne and Ghosn have done a terrific job keeping their respective companies afloat. Renault-Nissan has proven successful despite all the negative expectation. Chrysler is keeping Fiat afloat like Fiat kept Chrysler a lifeline and allowed the Chrysler turnaround. The thing is in this industry everything takes time. And when your hit by a specific set of circumstances you just have to weather it and prepare for the next time. Honda and Toyota were seen as being in a weak position when the US market imploded. They're trying to strengthen their position in BRIC markets for example to bettwr resist next time around. toyota in particular see,s to have taken these lessons to heart. Will Europe stay on the decline? How Long? If Europe implodes PSA seems a goner, but Renault and Fiat will live one due to their presence elsewhere. PSA will soon have its 301 sedan out to compete with the Dacias-Renaults of the world. That car will allow them to live to fight another day. Or not. That's how crucial this car is. I believe the Peugeot family has finally seen the light. The question is whether or not they'll be able to pull a Mullaly.

    • See 1 previous
    • Marcelo de Vasconcellos Marcelo de Vasconcellos on Oct 22, 2012

      @Victor Oi Viquitor! I too hope Peugeot can get their act together. 'Cause like you I know how good they used to be. Time is of the essence right now. Their small CUV has to get here yesterday. And to have a chance in Brazil it'd need to undercut both Duster and EcoSport on price. There's an article on TTAC today that shows how the 201 is just a pipedream. If it ever come to fruition we are talking 2015. Too late! I agree. QR is a joke for the most part!

  • Invalidattitude Invalidattitude on Oct 22, 2012

    Lack of ambition? O'realy? Just look at the diesel-hybrid DS5, its innovative inside-out. The 208 makes the Polo a complete laughing stock. Only problem here is the lack of BRIC market share. While the Germans and the FIAT sell bazzzillions of outdated POS in China and Brazil, the French are nowhere...

    • Marcelo de Vasconcellos Marcelo de Vasconcellos on Oct 22, 2012

      Things are changing. Renault now commands 7% of the market in Brazil and are growing. Partner Nissan has 3% and is poised to grow. In fact, Renauolt could soon strip Ford of 4th place in the market and in 2 yrs Nissan should be breathing down Ford's neck. All in all the comany now has 10%. Renault-Nissan-Lada also have a strong presence in Russia and Eastern Europe. What they can't seem to crack is India and China but they have Nissan for that. PSA on the other hand can barely break 4%. They're also not strong in any of the other BRICs.

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