Peugeot, PSA Group's best-selling brand, is making a rapid transition toward electrification. Leading the way are the full-electric versions of the next generation of the 208 small hatchback and 2008 subcompact SUV, and plug-in hybrid versions of the 3008 compact SUV and 508 midsize fastback sedan. At the same time, Peugeot is broadening its lineup by adding a pickup truck and performance models. CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato spoke with Automotive News Europe Associate Publisher and Editor Luca Ciferri and Correspondent Peter Sigal about how the brand is changing.
Peugeot showed the 508 Sport Engineered concept, a high-performance four-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid, at the Geneva auto show this year. What is the future of high-performance vehicles at Peugeot?
The 508 Sport Engineered will be released next year, with orders opening in March, and the first one will be delivered in October 2020. There will be a sedan and a station wagon, as part of a line of high-performance vehicles. I think it will be a success, because the total cost of ownership (TCO) of this car -- with 360 hp, four-wheel drive and emissions of less than 50 grams of CO2 per kilometer -- will be only 300 euros a month more than the standard 508 plug-in hybrid. It will be the first Peugeot to have more than 300 hp. For us it's a way to send two messages: That we are ready technologically for the future, and also that we don't want the future to be boring.
Will there still be a GTi range?
No, this is our top level. This car is something I have been targeting for years, and I know that Jean-Marc Finot (the head of PSA Motorsport, which helped develop the 508 Sport Engineered) has been looking forward to it. That is because if you want to build a future in motor sports you have two constraints. First, it must be electrified, because no one will understand why, if the whole automobile market is switching to electric, that racing series aren't. And second, it must not be dependent on sponsors -- it needs to generate its own money. Developing and selling this type of car will create profits that will help support the racing team, like AMG does for Daimler, for example.
Peugeot's E-Legend electric, autonomous coupe concept inspired by the 504 Coupe from the 1970s was also very well received. Could you build that?
It was a great message for us, but to go into series production would cost us about 250 million euros. We decided that we needed to deal with the shift to electrification first. After that we will see if it's worth spending the money. But all the elements are in place to say, "yes."
You have a very tightly focused lineup now, with SUVs and conventional variants in the small, compact and midsize segments. Will you be expanding it?
In our global vision, in Europe we are focusing on electrifying the brand. But we need to increase our sales outside of Europe to better balance our regional mix. One thing we are doing is focusing on our light-commercial vehicle lineup, including our coming 1-ton pickup.
The pickup is being developed with your joint venture partner in China, Dongfeng. What is the status of that project?
We will launch the pickup next year. I don't know what kind of volumes it will generate. I'm very conservative about that, therefore, we aren't saying that we will take 5 percent of the 6 million worldwide pickup market. We are focusing on matching our competitors' features and reliability. The truck must be unstoppable. We won't launch it, however, until the global ecosystem, such as spare parts, is ready, because it must be able to be maintained anywhere in the world, for example in Africa.
What is your regional revenue mix?
In 2018, before we lost Iran [because of sanctions], we were at 50-50 Europe and rest of the world. Turkey and Argentina were down last year so we are now at 60-40 or 65-35. To protect my country mix, I need to be stronger in the maximum number of countries.
How important is North America in building up revenue outside of Europe?
We don't have any profit-loss effect at this point. We are preparing the project [targeting sales there by 2026]. Next year we can be more precise on what type of product we could have.
Will the next 308 be on PSA's EMP2 platform for compact and midsize cars, and will it have an electric or plug-in hybrid option?
Yes, it will be on the EMP2 platform. It will be a plug-in hybrid first, but could perhaps later have a full-electric drivetrain. Our compact and midsize cars will have plug-in hybrid drivetrains because it's a smoother way to switch from internal combustion to electric.
What is your diesel mix today?
It was 43 percent last year and we are at 41 percent now. Until Euro 7 emissions regulations come in, probably in 2024, we will let our customers choose their powertrain, whether it be gasoline, diesel or electric. After Euro 7, I think the diesel will die off, but if demand is still there, we will be there.
The new 208, especially the electric version, is a very important car for Peugeot. What kind of order volume have you seen?
We launched the car in October in France. We had 12,000 orders in just one country; 52 percent were in the upper two trim levels [for models with a traditional powertrain], and 12 percent were for the electric version. I'm targeting around 10 percent electric -- and those aren't pre-orders. They are real orders. I don't know what the global mix will be, but if we are around 4 percent to 5 percent electric in a country such as Italy, it will really help our emissions average in Europe. Something is clearly changing -- lots of customers are now asking for electric.
How do electric vehicles fit into your revenue mix?
First, the residual value of an e-208 is 2,500 euros more than an internal combustion one. That's because the energy mix of the market will be changing in the next several years.