GENEVA -- Several European manufacturers are rumored to be fashioning plans for U.S. entries.
Top officials of two of those companies -- Peugeot SA,Spa and SA -- were interviewed by WAW at the Geneva auto show, but only Peugeot lends credence to the scuttlebutt.
A decision whether to return to the U.S. market will come in the next several months, says Peugeot Chairman Jacques Calvet. Sales could resume in about five years, he says.
One of three studies that eyes a return of Peugeot and Citroen marques to the U.S. is completed; the other two are due mid-year. The reports weigh the costs and benefits of moving cars into the U.S. from either France or South America vs. establishing a manufacturing site in the U.S.
The prime concern is how currency fluctuations will affect operations in the U.S., but a U.S. manufacturing facility holds the most potential for, Mr. Calvet says. "This would not necessarily mean all (products built in the U.S.) would actually be sold in the U.S.," he explains.
A decision on U.S. production likely won't come until late 1997.
Auto President Paolo Cantarella says there are no plans to spec future vehicles for the U.S. "At the moment we are concentrating more on fast-developing countries and fast-developing markets," he says.
also says the gossip is unfounded. Patrick Faure, executive vice president of worldwide sales and marketing for Renault, cites two arguments. First: To be reasonably sure of success requires a huge investment in money, product and people. "We honestly don't think we have, today, the capacity to invest so much of our intelligence, engineers and money. It is too early," he says.
Second: Customers in North America want cars that are very different from European models.
And Louis R. Hughes, executive vice president of International Operations forCorp., plays down speculation that any Opel-badged vehicles other than a Cadillac-badged Omega arriving next year will be hitting U.S. shores under a different brand name. "Basically we might use an Opel platform with the brand character of a specific U.S. marque on it, but we are not going to just try to export cars to the U.S. and rebadge them," says Mr. Hughes.
Rumor has it that Saturn Corp. could get a rebadged Opel, but sources say GM's North American Operations and Opel are working toward a common platform that could be built in the U.S. and Europe by the late-1990s. It could include the Opel Corsa, Vectra and Astra cars as well as Saturn and GM J-cars (Cavalier and Sunfire).