PSA model plan a ute-tastic chance for NZ?

An announcement out of France yesterday about PSA Group’s future model strategy is heartening news for the local distributor, which today launched its DS sales pitch.

ONE new car, per region, per brand, per year … including, perhaps, a Francophile edition of the country’s second-best-selling utility.

Could this promised product blitz for the Peugeot, Citroen and DS product lines be the making of those currently minor brands in New Zealand?

Simon Rose, who heads Sime Darby Automobiles New Zealand and his Melbourne-based boss, Kai Bruesewitz – general manager for Australasia - are certainly heartened by a bold product strategy outlined in Paris yesterday by PSA Peugeot Citroen big boss Carlos Tavares.

Speaking to Motoring Network today at a media preview of the latest DS models, headed by a new DS4 crossover, they acknowledged there is huge local market potential for the ‘Push to Pass’ strategy that reaches in all directions – even, potentially, to a PSA edition of that New Zealand market legend, the Toyota Hilux (right).

Does Rose believe there’s actual prospect of selling the truck that is running No.2 in sales to the Ford Ranger?

“No comment at this point – we’ve got a long way to go,” he laughed.

“But, yeah, obviously New Zealand has a strong interest in utes, with one (the Ranger) being No.1 last year.

“It’s good news if we could get our hands on it but it’s early days.”

“What’s exciting for us is the general PSA Group plan. The forward product thinking from Tavares is fantastic to hear. I’d be happy to get into a new range. It gives us great opportunity.”

Addressing PSA’s intentions through to 2021, ‘Push to Pass’ sets out to deliver 34 models - 26 passenger cars and eight light commercials.

Conjecture that the Hilux could be the utility is based on PSA already having established a working relationship with Toyota, with collaboration on building small cars for Europe.

Seven plug-in hybrid and four pure-electric models will also appear by 2021, and the company will expand its focus on connected vehicle and driverless vehicle technologies.

Bruesewitz reinforces that the finer detail of yesterday’s announcement is still not clear to Sime Darby, so there is no assumption that everything being spoken about is set to one day come here. “We need to look into that.”

However it plays out, a push set to provide a big increase in returns for the second-largest of France’s two major automotive companies is surely set to have some impact on New Zealand, because the maker has identified it needs to grow its export presence.

It has identified a pressing need to break its dependence on the European market, which made up 62 percent of its 2.97 million global deliveries last year.

Peugeot and Citroen are modest performers here presently. Even though last year was a boom year for car brands, Peugeot moved just 759 vehicles and Citroen accounted for 218.

The latter tally included the DS models, which are now subject to a strategy to become a separate premium entity, espousing the return of the French luxury car.

It’s a process of brand reinterpretation that is expected to take time; the ultimate aim is for DS to be recognised as a full competitor for Audi, but that’s a long-term target.

The push here begins modestly. For a start, DS will only represent in metro areas – two in Auckland area, one each in Wellington and Christchurch and another planned for Hamilton – all of these being existing Peugeot-Citroen sellers. DS will ultimately achieve separate dealerships, as has occurred in Europe, though this change might not occur until future DS sports utilities come into the mix, Rose says.

Today Sime Darby released of three updates of existing cars that will wholly represent the DS brand for at least two more years.

A mid-life facelift for the small DS3, the line’s cheapest car, is big news since it now receives a six-speed automatic transmission for the first time since introduction four years ago. Replacing a four-stage unit, this new transmission is in marriage with an 81kW/205Nm 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine. This model sells for $42,990.

The DS5 is also expected to gain more interest through its revisions; it now presents in a 2.0-litre diesel form for $64,990.

However, the most important car – given our market’s love of crossovers and sports utilities – could be the DS4 Crossback (pictured), essentially a version of the compact hatch given the faux off-road treatment. With the same 133kW/400Nm engine as DS5, it is a $54,990 car.

The Crossback rides 30mm higher than the ordinary DS4 that has now disappeared. It has black roof rails, black alloys plus natty black wheelarch extensions – but maintains the donor car’s front-drive. There is no four-wheel-drive option.

All the DS models have been ordered in premium trim; the point where there are no options at all on DS5. They have quality leather, full electrics, alloys, sat nav, trip computers, climate control air conditioning and, on DS4 and DS5, xenon headlamps. Heated and massaging front seats also appear on the larger cars. Three year servicing is also part of the deal.

Expected to cumulatively achieve 100 sales per annum, these cars are really just tasters for what is to come for DS, because the current DS3, DS4 and DS5 are in their twilight years.

Their replacements comprise the bulk of the six next-generation DS models that should arrive in the global market before 2020. The first, set to land by 2018, is expected to be a large luxury sedan called the DS8. Also under development are a DS3-based small SUV and DS6 mid-size SUV replacement for the DS 6WR that is currently a China-only model.

The DS E-Tense shown at March’s Geneva motor show followed other DS concept cars rumoured to preview next-generation production models, including the DS Divine Concept from 2014 thought to preview the DS8.

Although Tavares did not spell out yesterday which brands get what and when, it is thought the impending DS models are already counted within the model lines he described yesterday.