INTERVIEW: Peugeot CEO Maxim Picat (Part 1)

By Glenn Brooks | 10 October 2014

Maxim Picat joined PSA in 1998. He ran plants in France and China before becoming head of the Peugeot brand in 2012

Maxim Picat joined PSA in 1998. He ran plants in France and China before becoming head of the Peugeot brand in 2012

Can Peugeot become a near-premium brand, in time? CEO Maxim Picat believes it can. Here, he discusses progress on future vehicles and powertrains, and challenges the suggestion that rivals for Dacia and Renault's Logan and Sandero are needed.

How is the separation of DS from Citroen affecting Peugeot's brand positioning?

It has no impact. We are growing out of the situation where Peugeot and Citroen were just 'comforting' each other with the same range, same segments, same positioning, etcetera. So that's good news - we have three brands, each with its own positioning. Peugeot is targetting being the best mainstream brand, like maybe Volkswagen; DS is more premium and niche.

How can Peugeot get into the same space as the Volkswagen brand [in Europe]?

By moving upmarket with every single car in the range. You will find more and more some of the equipment and engines shared with DS.

The 508 is your biggest car. Do you see Peugeot making larger models again one day?

First of all, a move upmarket is not the same thing as the size of the car. We have to decide where we stop our range. We don't want to go to a five-metre saloon car for China, even if we are strong in China. Why? Because this is not our positioning. Look at Buick. In China, there are two D segment sedans: LaCrosse and Regal. This is not what we want to do. We are targetting a customer who wants a more dynamic car, so we don't want to have a big car. 

What is interesting is that in Europe, we see the D segment decrease year after year. One of the reasons is, nobody who owns a car today wants to switch to this segment. Why? Because if they want to go upmarket, they choose an SUV. So clearly a future 508 cannot be just the same as the current car. We have to see that SUVs are important - the Quartz [an SUV concept at the Paris motor show] is showing the way for more dynamic models in the D segment.

You've said that Peugeot's global model range will be slashed from 26 vehicles to just 13. By when?

Today. From 108 to 508, by counting what we offer, you will now find 13 cars in our '8' range. These make up 94% of what we produce. We have now stopped producing some older models, like the [Hoggar] small pick-up for South America, and in Europe the 807 and 308 CC, also the 207 CC will not be replaced. These are segments which have been decreasing. Plus, we are still selling in various markets, 206, 207, 307, 308 generation one - we need to syncronise our newer models worldwide. 

By reducing from 26 to 13, there will be no impact on our volumes because almost all our volume is now from that 8 range plus 301.

What of the Mitsubishi-sourced vehicles, the iOn and 4008?

What is iOn, what is 4008? It's electric cars, it's SUVs. We need electric cars in the future, we need SUVs in the future. It might or might not be in co-operation with Mitsubishi. I don't think there is a future in the long term for specific electric cars. Instead, we would have electric powertrains within 'normal' body types like Volkswagen is starting to do [e-Golf, e-up!]. 

Will you need these models sooner rather than later?

I don't think so. Today, we [PSA] are the leading group in low emissions within Europe. So I don't think we are in a rush to have to lower our CO2. We see that the electric market is not growing at the pace that some thought it should do but we still see that EVs will have their place in the future. We will also have hybrid solutions - micro hybrids, mild hybrids, full hybrids, plug-in hybrids - there will be a ramp-up of the technology. We already have some of these technologies and clearly PHEV is a good direction to follow. I think, we will need them by the end of the decade. Maybe we will go faster than before then but this will be driven by customer needs and by regulations.

If there won't be a 808 or a new Citroen C8 that means PSA is exiting this segment. What then is the future of SEVEL Nord [where the 807 and C8 were made]?

In fact, the 807 and C8 have gone out of production this summer though we still have some inventories to sell. Now, SEVEL Nord is for LCVs. Here, we build the Peugeot Export and Citroen Jumper and also a van for Toyota Motor Europe. We have lost Fiat as a partner for this plant but we have gained Toyota. We will renew in the future the models which we produce there.

What about the RCZ - will it be replaced?

Today, it's true that we have not taken the decision about a replacement for this car. What you have to understand, is when you look objectively to the past, to the history of Peugeot, we have overinvested by attacking every segment of the European market. At the end of the day, we have been too Europe-specific with cars like the RCZ or CC models, which has also meant we neglected the rest of the range. We had 207 and 307 models that were not good enough. Clearly, what I want for the brand is to have the best models possible - the best 208, 308, 3008 that we can engineer. To have the right image, the best image, you need to focus your resources and people. Not just having fun by developing all these other cars. But, I love the RCZ, I drive one daily. Peugeot will be stronger not because it will have iconic niche cars like CC or RCZ. Peugeot will become stronger because the range will be stronger. This means, more GT, more GTi cars.

So no more 'halo' models?

It's nice to have these but it's not a must have to make separate models. In the future, you will see more in terms of materials, in terms of powertrains - in fact, all the sporty models will be engineered that way, not just a sticker on the back of the car. This is the direction we will offer to the customer.

What does that mean for the luxurious XY model grade on the 208?

That was a good try. Sometimes you have to admit when you have a weakness. Maybe, XY was a bit too DS-like. Now you see the expensive versions of our models are the GT and GTi, which are the sporty versions, and with the Exalt concept there are new materials, a new look. It's got to be French luxury - this must be something different so that you make the cars more attractive to the customer.