French set sights on

America

Xavier Peugeot with Citroen C5 Aircross, Paris Motor Show 2018
Citroen C5 Aircross, 2018, front, Paris Motor Show
Citroen C5 Aircross, 2018, front
Citroen C5 Aircross, 2018, interior
Xavier Peugeot, Citroen product director

FRENCH motoring giant PSA is returning to the United States after a gap of more than 40 years.

Speaking at the Paris Motor Show, Citroen product director Xavier Peugeot said it was part of the group's strategy to become a worldwide brand.

"We're not a market player in the USA yet," he said.

"But it is one of our strongest ambitions to become more international and with our core models.

"If we want to boost our sales outside of Europe then we have to bring some level of mobility and coherence throughout the world."

He would not be drawn on which model would be the first into America, a market that the French company pulled out of in 1977, but it is more than likely to be some sort of SUV which is where PSA's expertise lies.

And there are no shortage of candidates. The group now comprises Peugeot, Citroen, DS and the recently acquired Vauxhall and Opel which it bought last year from General Motors.

They all have their own SUV range expanded with the Citroen C5 Aircross launched at the Paris show.

It has already done well in China where it has made 440,000 sales in the year since it went to market. It will also be available as the company's first hybrid from 2019.

It will join 14 other PSA vehicles which will be getting alternative powertrains over the next two years. The 15 will be made up of eight plug-in hybrids including the C5 Aircross, DS 7 Crossback E-TENSE 4x4, the Peugeot 3008, Peugeot 508 and 508SW, the Vauxhall Grandland X and the Opel Grandland X.

The seven all-electric vehicles will start with the first, the DS 3 Crossback E-TENSE which was also unveiled at Paris.

"More and more customers are asking about electrified versions of cars whether that is all-electric or plug-in hybrids and that's something you can't avoid," Peugeot went on.

"And we see this as a tremendous opportunity for all our brands.

"Every PSA product from DS to Peugeot and Citroen, Vauxhall and Opel will be electrified by 2025 either as an electric vehicle or a plug-in hybrid.

"Whatever product the customer chooses it will have some kind of alternative powertrain."

The problem Citroen has, like all manufacturers, is trying to define the pace of change. At the moment 98.3 per cent of customers are choosing NOT to buy electric cars.

However, with governments like Norway banning the sale of fossil fuelled cars from 2030 and France and the UK from 2040 car makers are having to anticipate how soon that percentage is likely to change and be ready for customer demand.

"At the moment if you want to buy an electric car or a PHEV then you have to pay a premium price - and that's got to change," said Peugeot.

"Governments have to focus on infrastructure too. If you buy an electric car and want to go from London to Glasgow you would expect to have to plug in somewhere otherwise you're in trouble.

"Governments have to develop infrastructure - we need as many electric charging points as there are filling stations. That will be key.

"Our job is to make sure that we can offer new technology at the most affordable price."

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