First the Free2Move Car-Sharing Service, then Peugeot Citroen Returns

PSA has chosen from Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Opel or Vauxhall—but when?

Francoautomobilephiles, rejoice! PSA Peugeot Citroen has already re-entered the U.S. market—parts of it, anyway. Bad news, if you’re one of those enthusiasts described in the opening sentence, is that this relaunch has begun with a car-sharing aggregation app offering, so far, only cars already sold in the United States. Peugeot Citroen operates Free2Move, a new smartphone app already aggregating Daimler’s Car2Go and Zipcar in Seattle.

“We’re launching TravelCar, which is a peer-to-peer car rental, and then the bicycle services,” says Larry Dominique, president and CEO of PSA North America.

“Eventually, I’d like to incorporate mass transit. Maybe the ferries in Seattle that go to Bainbridge. We’re willing to do anything we can to help consumers get around. We want to be that provider.”

This is a prelude to the entrance, early in the next decade, to the U.S., by of one of PSA’s brands—most likely, we’d guess, Citroen, DS, or Peugeot; less likely Opel or Vauxhall.

Dominique, veteran of General Motors, Nissan, and most recently, ALG/TrueCar, was hired last year as a consultant before global PSA CEO Carlos Tavares tapped him in February 2017 to lead the re-invasion. Dominique worked on the original Xterra, the Frontier CrewCab, Titan, QX56 and Armada, and was responsible for all Nissan North and South America product planning from 2006 to 2011, about the same time Tavares ran Renault under Carlos Ghosn.

“I can’t tell you which brand, but we’ve already decided which brand is coming back,” Dominique says. “We can focus with the brand itself on how to position. We’re doing research with consumers across the country. I’m testing vehicles, I’m testing the brand positioning.

Free2Move might offer cars from the chosen brand before they go on sale in the U.S., but only shortly before.

“Part of that is, I want to understand, am I starting at a deficit? Am I starting on flat ground? Or am I starting with some sort of positive equity?”

Though some reports from before Dominique’s move to PSA named DS—Citroen’s luxury sub brand, created primarily for the Chinese market—as the marque designated for us, it’s not necessarily so.

“People are just making assumptions,” he counters. “But there have been a lot of people saying that, because it’s a new global brand for PSA, it’s a luxury moniker, that that just makes perfect sense to a lot of people.”

In any case, we’re not likely to find out for some time. First, Dominique and his boss, global chief Tavares, have to develop a timeline.

“I want to make sure that we are 100-percent ready to launch cars. I don’t have an existing dealer network. I have no legacy infrastructure. I don’t have any IT set up in this country. I have no after-parts and service set up in this country. I have to build those things from the ground-up. Which is a blessing and a curse, simultaneously.”

Dealership requirements and the way they’re organized are issues yet to be determined, although Dominique says PSA plans on a traditional dealership network, not a Tesla-like anti-franchise policy.

“People in the United States, the way they ingest transportation now, is changing,” Dominique says. “We know that urbanization is increasing in many cities. We know that Millennials and Gen-Zs, especially the urban dwellers, are thinking of transportation in different ways. They’re not as hip on car ownership. They’re looking for different ways to get around. We want to be a preferred provider of that kind of service.”

Free2Move is open to any established provider.

“I’m fine with Car2Go being on there, and (BMW’s) ReachNow being on there, in addition to ZipCar. Bike-sharing services,” Dominique says.

“If GM wants to put Maven on Free2Move, I’m fine with that because at the end of the day, we’re trying to put people in vehicles to provide transportation.”