PARIS – The first major strategic move ofPeugeot Citroen since joining forces with is to go full speed ahead on its own project for emerging countries.
The Peugeot 301, a sturdy midsize sedan, goes on sale in Turkey in November and then in a dozen other markets. (One of them, Greece, can’t be said to be emerging.)
Earlier this year, whenwas cutting costs in every direction, it put the 301 project on hold. Certainly, the French auto maker talked about the project with GM when deciding what they could do together, but GM was not part of the planning.
“Apparently the project was so close, they couldn’t turn back,” says analyst Jean-Michel Prillieux of Paris-based Inovev.
The 301 is not a low-cost car like’s Logan, which was designed to sell for less than €10,000 ($12,500). The 301 will use the latest PSA powertrains, including the 3-cyl.1.2L gasoline direct-injection engine that has just come onto the market in the Peugeot 208.
Other engines are the 1.4L HDi diesel and 1.6L gasoline engine that can be purchased with an automatic transmission.
The auto maker says the 301 is designed to be robust, ready for hot or cold climates and bad roads. At the same time, it has antilock brakes, electronic stability controls, Isofix attachments for children’s seats and other modern amenities.
The car measures 174.8 ins. (444.0 cm) long and sits on a wheelbase of 104.3 ins. (265.0 cm), which gives it a large back seat. The trunk is said to be the most spacious in the C-segment, at 17.9 cu.-ft. (506 L).
The car goes into production soon in Vigo, Spain, home of one of PSA’s largest factories. It has a capacity of 480,000 units annually, and last year produced 400,000 vehicles: the Citroen Berlingo, C4 Picasso and Peugeot Partner.
Assuming production slows with the downturn in the European market, the plant should have room for 100,000 units of the 301, which is the size of the operation envisioned several years ago when PSA first began talking about plans for a car that would sell in emerging markets.
It is a new segment for Peugeot, and the company is ambitious, saying the car is in the heart of its range. At the same time, it is unlikely to be sold in Western Europe, where hatchbacks and station wagons are the preferred silhouettes in the C-class.
The 100,000-unit potential of the 301 is similar to the volume of theFluence, a 3-box sedan made in South Korea and mainly sold outside Europe.
The car will be officially presented to the public at the Paris auto show in late September. In addition to Turkey and Greece, it will be marketed in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Russia, Ukraine and some Latin American countries.
Peugeot had a 301 model in 1932, and using the name now is part of a revision of its badging system.
Until now, the first digit in a Peugeot car name represented the size or segment, the central 0 indicated it is a Peugeot and the last digit signaled the generation. There was a 302, 303, 304, 305 and so on.
When Peugeot invented new cars such as the 1007, 3008 and 5008, it used a “00” in the middle to express the tall nature of the minivans and crossovers. It uses names for utility vehicles like the Partner, and it chose the initials RCZ for its sports car.
However, its mainstream cars such as the 308 and 208 already were approaching a naming problem for what to do after the ninth generation. Peugeot’s solution is to follow the rules of the first and second digits, segment and history and use a third digit of “1” for cars designed for the emerging markets or an “8” for cars sold in Western Europe and other mature markets.
Thus, the 308 will be followed by a new 308, in the same way theGolf doesn’t change its name with each generation.