PARIS - Peugeot is approaching the supermini segment with cautious optimism.
While it plans to start sales with basic three- and five-door models, it is aggressively testing niche derivatives that have no competitors.
A sportwagon concept based on the 206 will be at Paris in October, according to sources in Italy and France, and a hard-top convertible concept was shown at Geneva.
Niche derivatives are common in the lower-medium segment, but they have been rare among superminis until recently. Ford has its Puma coupe based on the Fiesta, GM has its Tigra based on the Corsa, VW has a wagon version of its Polo and Toyota is considering a cargo van version of its Yaris.
The Fiat Palio was designed with derivatives in mind, but only the Palio Weekend wagon is sold in Europe. Truck, sedan, hatchback, van and convertible versions are sold only in emerging markets.
The Paris concept will be a hybrid of a station wagon and a sport-utility, said a source, 'a kind of (Toyota) RAV4 with a 4x2 transmission.'
Peugeot officially rejects the information. 'We will introduce something new at the Paris auto show,' said a spokesman, 'but there is no station-wagon derivative included in the T1 (code-name for the 206) production program.'
One of the Italian carrozzieri is evidently involved in the concept car project. In the past, Pininfarina designed a station wagon concept based on the 205. That car, called the Verve, was shown at the Turin auto show in 1984.
Peugeot is closer to a decision to build its coupe-convertible version, which it called the Two-Oh-Heart at the Geneva auto show. A second prototype was ordered last month from French coachbuilder Heuliez for display at additional auto shows. Heuliez is a candidate to make some parts of the car involving the rigid roof folding system.
Frederic Saint-Geours, Peugeot brand director, says the sales target for the Two-Oh-Heart would be 10,000-15,000 annually. It could be priced around FF100,000 ($16,600) and go on sale beginning in early 2000.