PSA plots 3-stage return to U.S.

Tavares’ updated plan initially just calls for car sharing, possibly of EVs

Tavares: Selling cars in the U.S. would be the third part of a three-step plan.

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PSA Peugeot Citroen unveiled a 10-year plan that could eventually mean the return or launch of Peugeot, Citroen and DS models in the U.S. market.

In an hourlong presentation for analysts and investors today at PSA’s Paris headquarters, CEO Carlos Tavares said the updated blueprint would allow the automaker to “come back to a place where we can make significant profits.”

Still, Tavares’ plan for the U.S. market was pretty scarce of details. It is one part of a broad “Push to Pass” program outlined Tuesday to build upon a two-year recovery that has seen PSA swing from near-bankruptcy to its highest profitability in 14 years, with the help of a rescue from the French government.

PSA has formed a team to study the U.S. market, customer and regulatory requirements, but selling vehicles in the U.S. would be just the third step in a three-step plan, Tavares said.

The first step is “to start as a mobility operator from 2017, possibly with Bollore,” Tavares said.

Bollore is a French diversified group that builds batteries and electric compact cars mainly used by a car-sharing program in France called Autolib.

Bollore and Citroen are cooperating to launch a production version of the E-Mehari compact EV unveiled in March at the Geneva auto show.

The second step in PSA’s possible return to the American market could be to “develop mobility solutions using our cars,” Tavares said. He added that the vehicles would be part of a car-sharing or leasing program and would be owned by PSA and not by customers.

If the mobility and car-sharing programs show positive results, PSA could return “to sell cars in the U.S. supported by regional sourcing when appropriate,” Tavares said.

Two years ago, Yves Bonnefont, CEO of PSA’s DS near-premium brand, mulled entering the U.S. market in select big cities.

“We want to make DS a global premium brand, and you cannot be global without the U.S.,” Bonnefont told Automotive News Europe at the Paris auto show in October 2014.

The plan to return to the U.S. was part of a global strategy to sell DS vehicles in 200 large cities worldwide after 2020. The targeted cities would include 30 in North America and 20 in the U.S., Bonnefont said at the time.

Bonnefont said a decision to return to the U.S. would come in 2017 at the earliest, and U.S. sales would not begin until after 2020.

Tavares has previously downplayed Bonnefont’s ambitions, saying that DS’s entry in the U.S. would have to be part of the company’s updated strategic plan.

The revised plan released today does not include a specific commitment to the DS brand for the U.S.

Peugeot pulled out of the U.S. in 1991. The Citroen brand sold small numbers of privately imported models. The DS brand was never sold in the U.S. and none of its current five models respects Federal standards.

You can reach Luca Ciferri at lciferri@crain.com.


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