BARCELONA -- PSA/Peugeot-Citroen has opened its first regionally dedicated design studio in Shanghai to adapt European models and develop new ones for the Chinese market.
The locally-staffed styling studio marks the first time PSA has branched out from its design headquarters in Velizy, near Paris. The French carmaker operates a small design antenna in Sao Paulo, Brazil, but the Brazilian site is staffed by a rotating expatriate workforce and nowhere near as ambitious as the new Shanghai studio.
The Chinese styling center launched in November 2008 with a staff of 20 locally recruited designers and three expatriates from PSAs principal design studio, PSA director of styling Jean-Pierre Ploue told Automotive News Europe.
The objective is to ensure that Peugeot and Citroen cars bearing a Made in China label conform to local tastes.
PSA also is considering creation of a full studio in South America, which is one of its key non-European markets, and expected to be a site of major future growth, Ploue said.
Chinese like perceived wealth
The Shanghai design team has already begun adapting Citroens upper-medium C5 sedan for local production later this year. Designers will increase the use of external chrome, to add signs of perceived wealth to the car.
With PSA boosting the Asian product plan, it seemed indispensable that we have a design center to simultaneously adapt European models and create new products that are specifically Chinese, Ploue said at a press event here.
The studio is also working on new color schemes and materials. Improving interior comfort, particularly in the back seat, is a key task.
In China, the person who buys the car is usually sitting in the back, because he has a driver. So we have to be sure that comfort elements like cup holders or extra leg and head room migrate from the front seat to the back, Ploue said.
PSA has operated joint venture manufacturing operations with Chinas Dongfeng Motors since 1992. The French carmakers China sales fell 12.7 percent, to 180,800 units in 2008.
Ploue, who became PSAs director of styling last October, after eight years running Citroens design operation, believes strong growth in the French carmakers Latin American operations will soon merit a regional design site there as well.
With demand strong in the Mercosur region, tailoring design to local tastes should be a priority.