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FRANCE: Peugeot launches 301 sedan for emerging markets

By Graeme Roberts | 25 May 2012

Peugeot 301 sedan is part of a PSA push outside of west Europe

Peugeot 301 sedan is part of a PSA push outside of west Europe

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PSA Peugeot Citroen has unveiled a new sedan for emerging markets and said other pared-down models would follow, as the struggling French automaker seeks to reduce dependence on flagging western European demand.

The compact Peugeot 301 sedan will be built in Vigo, Spain, and launched later this year, starting in Turkey.

The new car "illustrates the internationalisation of the brand", Peugeot said, predicting that it would become one of its global bestsellers.

Peugeot, which swung to an automotive operating loss in 2011 as demand crumbled in its core European markets, is seeking to raise the share of deliveries outside the region to 50% in 2015 from 42% last year, Reuters noted.

Priced between the existing 208 subcompact and 308 compact hatchback, according to the company, the new Peugeot stops short of the low-cost approach behind Renault's larger - and cheaper - Dacia Lodgy minivan.

"The problem is that there's still too much cost internalised in these Peugeot vehicles," London-based UBS analyst Philippe Houchois told the news agency.

Whereas no-frills Renaults, starting with the Logan sedan in 2004, were designed from scratch with half the number of components typical for their size, the 301 shares its underlying platform with mainstream models.

"It's good but not a game-changer," said Houchois. "Peugeot is doing low-cost the old way for lack of investment and time."

Peugeot chief executive Philippe Varin has repeatedly vowed not to follow his domestic rival's example by marketing low-cost vehicles under the automaker's main brands.

Renault's entry-level range, built in Romania and Morocco, is sold under the Dacia brand in Europe but carries the Renault badge elsewhere. Introduced last month, the Lodgy starts at EUR10,000 (US$12,600).

Unlike Renault, Peugeot has no plans to sell its low-cost models in western Europe, a company spokesman said. "But we don't completely rule it out if they're a big success."

The 301 will get its first public showing at the Paris motor show in September, two months before it goes on sale.

Two Citroen models will follow as the automaker strives to increase its share of growth markets in central and eastern Europe, the Mediterranean basin and former Soviet states including Russia, the company said.

"The new 301 is a clear illustration of the marque's internationalisation and demonstrates its desire to conquer new markets," Peugeot said in a statement.

"It has been specifically designed to appeal to a wide customer base attracted by four-door saloons [less popular in hatchback-dominated western and northern Europe - ed] which are both accessible and present an enhanced level of status."

Peugeot said the 301 was developed to adapt to all conditions of use, and extremes (hot countries, cold countries, and poor roads) and is 4.44m long on a wheelbase of 2.65 m with claimed best in class boot volume of 506 dm3.

Available safety equipment, not always a strong point of models sold in emerging markets, includes ESP, ABS, up to four airbags, emergency braking assistance, ISOFIX child seat mounts.

Powertrain outputs range from a 1.2-litre 71 bhp to 1.6 115 bhp plus a 92hp 1.6 diesel and manual, automated manual and full automatic gearboxes are offered.

The 301 is the second car in the Peugeot range, after the 208, to get the new I3 petrol engine.

Electronic air conditioning, MP3 audio system, Bluetooth, USB connection, remote boot opening and rear parking assistance will also be offered.

After Turkey, the model will be launched in central and eastern Europe, Russia, Ukraine, Greece, the Middle East, Gulf and African states and some Latin American markets.