Maxime Picat has helped to guide PSA's comeback from near bankruptcy in 2013, first as managing director for the Peugeot brand and now as group operations director for Europe. The 44-year-old French executive spoke with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Peter Sigal about the challenges of integrating the Opel brand and how PSA will transition to electric vehicles.
PSA does not offer a true volume electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid. When will this change?
We will start next year with plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, with plug-in hybrids coming on larger cars and full electric on the smaller ones. By 2025, the full lineup will be electrified for the four brands [Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Opel/Vauxhall]. The EV market is still just 1 percent, but we will be ready when the market accelerates. We will be a fast follower, not a first mover.
What about 48-volt mild hybrids?
The 48-volt systems that are coming on the market are linked to the starter, and that's OK. We are working on solutions that are plugged directly into the gearbox, which is clearly more efficient. It can reduce CO2 emissions by more than 10 percent.
Carlos Tavares has talked about improving Opel's volume in profitable sales channels. How will PSA accomplish that?
First, we've got Peugeot and Citroen's experience on that. We know how to do it. Maybe the full recipe isn't adaptable to Opel, but most of it is. We don't let our teams reach their targets by pushing demo cars or short-term rentals. I'm monitoring the sales-channel figures monthly, country by country, and any time there is one that is out of line with the target, I let them know. It's very easy to say, "I am taking 1,000 cars from short-term rentals, so I did my job." No, you have to grow the business and go to the real customers and the real fleets and convince your dealers why your products are excellent and why they deserve better pricing.
Is it fair to say that the Opel brand is in transition?
It's maybe where Peugeot was three to five years ago. It's a nice lineup but it needs a bit more crystallization of what it is, and consistency. But we don't need a lot of time for them to clarify that. Then it's teach, repeat, train, claim, prove -- start a virtuous circle for the brand.
How are you coping with the decline of diesel sales?
We are trying to be as transparent as possible on the strengths and weaknesses of diesel and gasoline engines today. Then we let the customer decide. We are ramping up production of gasoline engines, but nobody knows what the future mix will be. The key is being able to adapt to whatever the future brings.
PSA has relatively clean and efficient diesels. Are you prepared to stand up and defend diesel with consumers, as some automakers have done?
Together with a non-governmental organization, Transport & Environment, we have published real-world data about our diesel consumption and emissions. We are trying to be transparent but not in an effort to defend the diesel. What we would love is to have the politics stay away from the technology in terms of setting targets for CO2 and NOx [nitrogen oxides]. Regulations are becoming less technology neutral and that's a shame. What we say is that we will not defend electric cars or gasoline cars or diesel cars. We want to be on the solution side, so we will offer solutions.
What is your forecast for the overall European market in 2018?
Stable, which is the result of declining UK sales being counteracted by growth elsewhere, mostly in Southern Europe.
Given that, how can PSA make money in Europe?
We will have to increase market share by leveraging new launches from our three brands [Peugeot, Citroen and DS], including the Peugeot 3008, 5008 and new 508. We've been doing that for the last year, so there is no reason to think it will stop tomorrow.