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Peugeot Australia to focus on commercial vehicles and medium cars

Peugeot is relaunching in Australia with a focus on commercial vehicles and a mid-sized sedan with luxury aspirations.

The French brand once known for its reliability and durability hopes to reverse a sales slump stretching back more than a decade, where record local sales peaked at 8807 in 2007 (with market share of 0.8 percent) before plunging to 2838 in 2018, for market share of 0.2 percent, lower than Porsche and about half as much as Skoda.

“Over the past few years we’ve lost our mojo as a brand,” said Peugeot Australia managing director Ben Farlow. “For the last 10 years we’ve perhaps been invisible for what we stand for and what we represent.”

Pointing to the potential of the brand and its extensive history – which includes a claim to being the oldest brand in transport, even outdoing Holden, which leverages its time as a saddle maker – Farlow wants Peugeot to leverage the fresh models coming through and build its brand equity.

“The Australian car buyer has found it difficult to find, understand and embrace our magic,” said Farlow in revving up dealers. “It’s now time to rattle the cage.

“We will no longer compete and conspire in traditional auto ways but rather bring a fresh, courageous approach to the way that we work together, communicate, bring new product to market and treat our customers.”

Key to Peugeot’s brand push is the imminent arrival of the 508, a mid-sized sedan that will compete with everything from the Mazda6 and Volkswagen Passat to entry-level luxury sedans such as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 3-Series.

To be priced from $53,990, the 508 features bold styling and a liftback-style rear-end, as well as a 167kW 1.6-litre turbo engine.

Read our international first drive of the all-new Peugeot 508

While it’s arriving in a market that’s declining, Farlow sees it as an important Halo car for Peugeot and a model that could appeal to private buyers looking for something different.

As a former marketing man in charge of the positioning of Johnnie Walker scotch, Farlow is a many thinking outside the four-wheeled square.

In selling the new Peugeot positioning he referenced everything from T2 tea and Chobani yoghurt to Aesop skin care products and the Apple Genius Bar.

In trying to sell Peugeot as a “thinking person’s brand” Farlow acknowledged there was some sub-standard product, which he partially levelled on research and development cuts during the global financial crisis of 2008.

But he believes those chasing a European car with some design flair could put Peugeot on their shopping list.

“It wasn’t that long ago that a [Peugeot] 308 outsold the [Volkswagen] Golf,” he said, nominating the target of taking on the top-selling European car as “an aspirational goal”.

But arguably Peugeot’s biggest competitors are Mazda and Volkswagen, each of which plays in the premium mainstream space and has been providing some middle ground on the step up to luxury players.

Renault – now with the marketing might of Australian Formula 1 star Daniel Ricciardo behind it – is also a big threat, attracting lovers of French cars and comfortably outselling its compatriot brands in Australia.

But it’s commercial vehicles that could change Peugeot’s fortunes.

The mid-sized Expert has just gone on sale from $36,490 and is the first van on the Australian market to have autonomous emergency braking (AEB) fitted standard.

It’s also backed by a five-year, 200,000km warranty.

In September Peugeot will also launch the smaller Partner and larger Boxer vans, paving the way for a concerted crack at the light commercial vehicle market in Australia.

Vans are big business in Europe and Peugeot is a big player, hoping to command a chunk of the van market that accounts for about 60,000 sales annually.

Farlow says while the brand globally is shifting towards electric vehicles, there are currently no plans to introduce them in Australia.

“Electric and hybrid vehicles will be an option,” he said, citing diesels as still important in the medium term. “We can respond when the market demands them.”


Toby Hagon

Toby Hagon

From Porsches to LandCruisers, Toby Hagon loves all things cars and has been writing about them for more than 20 years. He loves the passion and people that help create one of the world's most innovative and interesting industries. As well as road testing and chasing news he more recently co-authored a book on Holden. These days he crosses the world covering the industry but still loves taking off on the Big Trip in Australia.