Peugeot South Africa is back in the race and, with two new models to direct a revival that intends to grow its current 1% South African market share to 2,5% by 2021, is but the tip of the iceberg spearheaded by a man on a mission – Xavier Gobille.
“It is incomprehensible,” says the affable motorman who lives and breathes cars, motor sport and the auto industry. “Groupe PSA (Peugeot Société Anonyme) has 18% of the market in Europe, sells 3,8-million vehicles and is the Number 1 SUV brand in Europe. Why is this not replicated in South Africa?”
Peugeot South Africa (PCSA) is currently wholly owned by its French parent and Gobille has a green light that saw months of restructuring planning leading up to the launch of the 108 and 5008 locally – a plan that included a redesigned dealer network and revised product range with the 308 dropped from the list.
“In all the range was decreased by 40% and we have reset the entire parts supply network specifically to make the process of servicing vehicles a better experience for our customers and to live up to the philosophy of providing a pleasurable driving experience through sophisticated technology,” he says.
Part of the new organogram will be the relaunch of the Citroën and DS brands in a month’s time with model ranges designed specifically to complement Peugeot, rather than competing against it.
PSA also owns German carmaker, Opel. In South Africa, since General Motors withdrew from the market, the Opel brand has been distributoed by Unitrans but that is up for change with a potential buyer of the Steinhoff-linked motor group currently in the negotiation phase.
“Whether it happens in a month or a year, the plan for PCSA is to include Opel in the mix. How exactly it will happen remains to be seen.”
Recent news of a PSA assembly plant being established in Namibia is just part of a global expansion process into the continent of Africa and not an indication of any uncertainty about the South African auto industry opines Gobille.
“That is a deal done directly between the Namibian Government and PSA and PCSA is not involved in any way,” he says. “I will source cars from whichever plant suits our needs locally and that will include Namibia when it comes on stream, but I am not bound to it.
“Most of Africa is still a used car market and it really is in the interests of all the auto manufacturers to help set up the Africa motor industry. It is a natural expansion and hugely important because a car plant drives the development of many, many varied skills. It is an industry that contributes massively to the upskilling of citizens.”
As he talks it is easy to see the restless energy behind Gobille’s eyes. He knows where he wants to go and has the plan to get there as quickly and profitably as possible. To do this he has reshaped PCSA with a staff complement specifically chosen for their established skills.
In fact, there is a direct comparison to the current CEO of Groupe PSA, Carlos Tavares. Both he and Gobille had origins at Renault and both are motor sport enthusiasts and competitors.
Peugeot itself has a history dating back 200 years, the carmaker emerging from a company founded by Jean-Pierre and Jean-Frederic Peugeot making steel rods for crinoline dresses in the mid 1800’s, leadng to making umbrella frames, saw blades, chisels, wire wheels and bicycles.
In 1889, Armand Peugeot presented his three-wheeled car at the Universal Exhibition of Paris. In 1891, the first car sold in the world was a Peugeot Type 2 and more than 100 years after its creation, Sochaux is the oldest automotive production plant in the world. However, it also figures among the most modern of plants.
At the beginning of the 20th Century cars reached only 50 km/h or 60 km/h and Peugeot wanted to be the first to reach 150 km/h. At the end of 1908, the time of big cars had come to an end and, in 1911 the racing season was uncertain.
Peugeot would revolutionise the world of racing with the ‘Charlatans. (quacks), Georges Boillot, Jules Goux and Paolo Zuccarelli, who were not only drivers but also technicians or designers for the brand.
They challenged each other to build a light-weight, mid-size racing car able to win a Grand Prix race and it was their competitors and ‘official’ engineers who did not believe in the project and called them ‘the Charlatans’, a nickname that would forever remain attached to this young team.
Thanks to their talents and enthusiasm, they released the racing car that everyone was waiting for, the Peugeot L76 with a maximum speed of 190 km/h.
Since then the Peugeot Lion has graced the winner’s rostrum in rallies, rally-raid, endurance racing and pretty much all forms of motor sport – and could well gain another one in Cape Town in November is either of the Hansen brothers wins the 2019 FIM World Rallycross Championship.
The Lion image that symbolises the brand was used to represent the strength and sharpness of the products. This was symbolised by the Lion’s sharp jagged teeth.
In 1902 a Cape Town company called Benjamin and Lawton imported the first car to wear the Lion – the iconic 202, which had a tear-drop-shaped nose and headlights mounted behind the radiator grille. Cars remained fully imported until 1950 when National Motor Assemblies started manufacturing 203 vehicles at Natalspruit (near Germiston).
In 1969 – Peugeot Automobile Africa took over production at Natalspruit and in 1972 more than 10 000 Peugeot’s were sold for the first time.
In 1973 some 17 000 Peugeot’s were registered and the indestructable 404 became the 4th most popular car in the country.
In 2016 PSA announced its new five-year strategic plan, which focused on introducing new products to ensure revenue increased by 27% by 2021 – this pan was called ‘Push to Pass’ and involved launching 26 new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles.
Among the new cars, seven would be plug-in Hybrids, four electric vehicles and a one-ton pickup truck – all product categories that Peugeot did not currently make.
“The one-ton pickup will be coming to South Africa,” says Gobille. “I cannot give a definite date yet, but it is the planning.”
The new 108 is choc-full of standard features and competitively priced at R179 900 with the 5008 offering even more luxury and standing as the brand flagship – priced from 534 900.
“We are definitely back in the race,” smiles Gobille.