French cars are coming back to the U.S.! In ten years. Maybe.
That’s what we’ve learned so far from Peugeot Citroen chief Carlos Tavares, who vaguely sketched out his company’s goals for a slow burn that will eventually culminate with a return to North American sales. The announcement was made as a part of Peugeot Citroen’s (PSA) new “Push to Pass” global initiative, which will see 26 new cars, and 8 light-duty utilities including 1-ton pickup introduced by 2021.
The plans will also include 7 new plug-in hybrids and 4 all-electric vehicles, as well as important active-safety technologies like traffic-jam assist, and developments in connectivity and infotainment. Citroen alone will see 7 new models by 2018 and 12 new models by 2021, while the DS brand—rumored to come to the U.S. first—will announce 5 new models by 2021.
Tavares’ plan details three significant steps for bringing French cars back to the U.S., and the process is intentionally slow and patient. PSA wants to avoid failure because of pride or arrogance, so it will take its time learning the North American playing field. “We will come back to North America,” said Tavares in his presentation to reporters. “This is a place where we can make significant profit. But we are going to it over time, in a thoughtful and step-by-step manner.”
The first step is to become a “mobility operator,” which means getting involved in car-sharing and fleet management starting in 2017. “This is a way to understand the customers, stakeholders, and regulations so we can completely feel the pulse of that big market,” explained Tavares. “If we are successful, we will have the opportunity to bring our own cars to the fleets once they meet regulations.”
This second step in the plan would serve as a way to expose customers to PSA’s products and get a sense for how they are being received. Again, if that goes well, PSA would then begin introducing its cars to the North American market as a final step, with regional and local sourcing as needed.
These plans are a lot more speculative and hopeful than substantive. PSA’s new DS premium brand still has the best shot of making headway here in the U.S., but as we’ve detailed previously, there are a lot of obstacles for it to overcome. Even if PSA makes it to step three of its North American plans, it still faces the question of establishing a dealer network and making sure all of its future products will meet U.S. standards and regulations. We’ll keep an eye out, but Peugeot Citroen and DS cars are far from on our doorstep for now.