PARIS - Peugeot wants to capture a major share of western Europe's coupe and convertible market with its new 206CC - the coupe-convertible version of the 206 supermini.
With the 206CC, 'we want to gain about 20 percent of the coupe and convertible market here,' says Bruno de Guibert, Peugeot's vice president for product planning and in charge of the 206 program.
Coupes and convertibles will account for sales of 550,000 units in western Europe this year, de Guibert estimates.
French buyers are already having to wait until March 2001 to take delivery of a new 206CC.
'Peugeot has a backlog of 18,000 orders,' said a supplier source who did not wish to be named.
'We are receiving about 200 orders a day,' said a spokesman for PSA/Peugeot-Citroen in Paris.
The 206CC is being built at PSA's plant in Mulhouse, eastern France. Daily production is currently 120 units and the plant will not reach its nominal capacity of 400 units before next spring.
'We are aiming for 85,000 sales [of the 206CC] in western Europe next year,' says de Guibert. 'That would make up about 10 percent of total 206 sales. Worldwide, we are targeting 98,000 sales of the 206CC in 2001.'
De Guibert's sales forecasts for the 206CC next year include 27,000 units in France; 12,000 in Germany; 12,000 in Italy; 8,000 in the UK; 6,000 in Spain; 2,800 in Switzerland; and 1,500 in Austria.
The 206CC has just been launched in France. Sales in other main European countries will start in January. Outside Europe, countries such as Japan and South America will start receiving the car in the first half of 2001.
De Guibert says the 206CC will likely become a very profitable model for Peugeot - just as the high-performance 205 GTI was for the company in the late 1980s.
Out of the first 5,000 206CCs ordered in France, 65 percent of buyers have chosen the 2.0-liter, 137hp version that costs FF123,000 (E18,750). Thirty-five percent of orders for the 2.0-liter model specify leather seats. A 1.6-liter, 110hp version costing FF108,000 is also available.
'The 206CC is an event in the car market,' says de Guibert. 'It will be interesting to see how our competitors react. We think other carmakers will use the 206CC's automatically folding hard-roof system. Since we have a leadership with this feature, we'll go on using it for other models.' He did not specify which ones.
Previously, folding hard-roof systems have only been available on upscale models such as the Mercedes-Benz SLK.
French coachbuilder Heuliez supplies the 206CC's roof system, where the roof retracts automatically and folds into the car's trunk.