The next big things: the boss reveals technology and business changes transforming Peugeot Citroen | CAR Magazine

The next big things: the boss reveals technology and business changes transforming Peugeot Citroen

Published: 19 June 2016

► Interview with PSA boss Carlos Tavares
► Why he thinks Peugeot is better than the Germans
► How DS can become a premium brand success 

> ‘Citroën needs to be different, and of our three brands, has the widest scope for innovation. The C4 Cactus is not a mainstream car. It’s fresh, polarising and rewarded for being different. It’s successful and profitable. Citroën is a smart, humanistic and optimistic brand. I need to let them do what they feel is good. They’re going in the right direction.’

> ‘Peugeot is quite a German brand – well engineered, well manufactured, elegant, not showing off. They are at the upper end of the generalist brands. We shouldn’t forget that Peugeot was born in eastern France – near the German border.’

> ‘We want to make PSA less reliant on Europe and more international. Ironically, we now see Western Europe growing [last year it was the world’s fastest growing major car market] and China and many other promising ‘developing’ markets such as Brazil under-perform or drop. Life is full of surprises… But it doesn’t affect our plans. If we want to be protected from sudden sales shifts the only answer is to ‘go global’ so you can level off the peaks and troughs of individual markets. That is why our direction is to become even more global.’

> ‘With DS Automobiles, we’re trying to bring French luxury to the automotive world – in artistry, style and craftsmanship. We’ll introduce as much technology as we need, but absolute technical innovation is not the angle [unlike the old DS]. DS is already profitable. We’re not pushing volumes because that can hurt residuals and margins and that’s disastrous for premium brands.’

> ‘It’ll take 30 years for DS to be a successful premium brand. That’s how long it took Audi. How do I define success? We currently sell DS’s for 10-12% less than equivalent Audis. Success is partly about matching their transaction prices.’ 

> ‘If our full year results are as good as our half year results [€571million net profit, or £415million, PSA’s first half year profit since 2011], then I think we’d say our ‘Back in the Race’ turnaround plan is complete. But life isn’t that easy. So far we’ve had tail winds, like low oil price, favourable currency exchange rates and a surprising rebound in the European market. Maybe that will now change to headwinds.’

> ‘We were slow to get into SUVs and we still have fewer cars than we’d like. But I’m optimistic. New cars are in the pipeline and they’re outstanding. We are catching up fast with SUVs and crossovers. We’ve launched the DS4 Crossback and the Aircross Citroën concept. That problem will be solved.’

> ‘The disadvantage of being a French carmaker is that in the mind of some consumers our technology is behind the Germans. That is not true. If you look at the ADAC statistics on breakdowns, for example, you’ll see how we compare with the Germans, and our rankings are as good, sometimes better. Nobody has a monopoly on discipline and rigour. I’d like to combine the Latin creative mindset with German rigour. On the positive side, we are usually regarded as more artistic and stylish.’

By Gavin Green

Contributor-in-chief, former editor, anti-weight campaigner, voice of experience