PARIS – PSA Peugeot Citroen’s two brands are ready to launch clones of the Mitsubishi Outlander cross/utility vehicle in July, just as the charm seems to be wearing off the medium CUV segment here.

Despite being built on car platforms, rather than truck-based, CUVs generally are rolled into the SUV segment in Europe.

Vehicles such as the Toyota RAV4, Nissan X-Trail and Hyundai Santa Fe once made up 50% of CUV/SUV sales in Europe. Last year, they accounted for only 44%.

With 2008 sales goals of 20,000 units for each brand, PSA is not overly ambitious. Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., for example, expects to sell 50,000 of its X-Trail.

However, even 20,000 units could be a challenge.

“We think 40,000 (combined) units is a good level for the group,” a PSA spokesman tells Ward’s. “We don’t know the market, and the dealers don’t know the market or the customers.”

The PSA CUVs will be priced at €34,500 to €38,000 ($46,373-$51,079), at the high end of the €20,000 to 40,000 ($26,886-$53,771) range for midsize CUVs, and the dealers will be selling from stock, he says.

Customers in Europe typically order a car with particular options and are willing to wait a month or so for delivery. A Peugeot 4007 or Citroen C-Crosser ordered that way would arrive six months later.

The Peugeot 4007 will have two trim levels, a few neutral colors, a navigation system and a 650-watt sound system as options in France.

Other European countries, where sales start in September, will have different options, such as a Bluetooth hands-free wireless cell-phone connection.

PSA will offer its vehicles with a single powertrain, a new 2.2L common-rail diesel making 156 hp and 280 lb.-ft. (380 Nm) of torque linked to an Aisin 6-speed manual transmission.

The Outlander is sold with a 2.0L 140-hp diesel, and next year, both Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and PSA will offer a Mitsubishi gasoline mill with a continuously variable transmission option.

The PSA diesel mill delivers a fuel efficiency of 31 mpg (7.1 L/100 km) and 191 g/km of carbon dioxide, which falls just below a 200 g/km CO2 taxation level in France.

All three CUVs will be built in Mizushima, Japan, where 53,000 units annually are allotted to the Outlander and 20,000, each, for the C-Crosser and the 4007. Shipping time to Bruges, Belgium, is seven weeks.

The PSA diesel engines are made in Tremary, France, and by the they reach Japan, they will have made the equivalent of a world tour.

A team of about a dozen people in France monitors the cooperative CUV venture, making round-trips to Japan from time to time.

Over the 22 months of development, after the contract was signed, the French team directed up to 100 engineers, technicians and designers working on inexpensive changes to help differentiate the PSA vehicles from the Outlander, on which they are based.

The Outlander already was under development when the deal was signed, and Mitsubishi introduced it last fall. The French brands have their own distinctive grille, headlights and taillights, as well as some interior and exterior trim.

Aside from the engines, the mechanical differences are dual piston calipers for the front brakes and some tuning differences for suspension and steering, as Peugeot and Citroen try to bring their own feel to the Japanese base.

The PSA twins also get their own wheels and tires: 16-in. mud and snow and 18-in. summer tires. Citroen uses Michelin tires, as usual, while the 4007 will start sales with Bridgestones.

The contract between Mitsubishi and PSA, which runs to 2013, limits PSA sales to Europe, French possessions outside and a few other countries, such as Turkey.

However, says Jean-Pierre Vieux, director of sales for Africa and the French possessions, “We are in negotiations now for South Africa.”

Surprisingly, Peugeot plans on relatively fewer CUV sales in France than usual for its vehicles. While about a third of its European sales of passenger cars are in France, it expects only a fourth of the CUV sales there, or 5,000 units.

France is less CUV/SUV-oriented than some other countries, such as Spain. Peugeot targets 2,000 sales annually in Spain, the U.K. and Germany.

CUVs/SUVs made up 7.2% of the European market last year, while in France the figure was 5.5%, growing to 5.7% of a market in first-quarter 2007 that was down overall 1.4%.