Peugeot Australia general manager John Startari says the introduction of the entry-level 2016 Peugeot 208 Access manual at $15,990 plus on-road costs (or $16,990 driveaway) is a crucial step in putting the French company on the radar of Australian customers in the mainstream car market.
“Never in our history in Australia have we ever had a vehicle priced at this level,” Startari said.
“Eighty per cent of customers considering a vehicle in this segment first consider a vehicle priced below $20,000, despite spending more when they option the vehicle to their individual needs.
“We just weren’t on the radar of this segment. We were only on the radar of 20 per cent of potential light passenger vehicle customers.
“The changes we’ve made to the new 208 line-up are to put Peugeot on people’s consideration list, because quite frankly, we weren’t before.”
The 208 Access five-speed manual becomes the cheapest Peugeot hatch ever sold in Australia and the lowest-priced vehicle from the brand in our market in 35 years – the cheapest since the 1980 Peugeot 504 Familiare at $15,750. The new base model undercuts the previous entry-level 208 Active by $3000.
Startari describes as “pivotal” the role of the 208 Access – also available with a six-speed automatic transmission and a turbocharged engine for $18,990 (or $19,990 driveaway) – in opening up the Peugeot brand to new and younger customers.
“They’re not the cars that we believe we’re going to be selling [in big numbers], but people wouldn’t even consider us [before] because we didn’t start at that price point.
“People make the assumption that Peugeots are a lot more expensive than what they really are, so we’re hoping that will go a long way to increasing consideration, and when they get into the dealership, they’ll realise the value, and we reckon Active and Allure are definitely going to be the big sellers.”
Despite the hype, Peugeot expects the Access grade to account for just five to seven per cent of 208 sales. More than 50 per cent of buyers are expected to step up to the $21,990 Active and $25,990 Allure variants, with the remainder split between the sports-styled $27,490 GT-Line and the high-performance $30,990 GTi.
“When you exclude the noise and filter down, there is for European brands a high percentage that buy level two [trim grades], level three and above,” Startari said. “$21,990 to $22,990 is where we believe the market is for that type of car because they want the additional features and they’re prepared to pay for it, but they need to be justified in the starting price too, so we’ve been very strategic in the way we’re appealing to the market and then offering a compelling story to move up.”
The 208 Access gets a handful of standard features such as cruise control, a six-speaker audio system with USB and Bluetooth connectivity, and a tyre pressure monitor, but appears under-equipped in the highly competitive city car segment, lacking electric side mirrors, electric rear windows, a touchscreen media system, steering wheel controls for the audio system, and painted exterior door handles and mirror caps.
Startari said despite the brand’s best efforts it was unable to make a reverse-view camera standard on any model. It’s not available at all on the Access, but is an affordable $300 option throughout the rest of the range, and can be bundled with the Active City Brake system for $500 in the Allure and GT-Line variants.
“We’d like it across the range in everything, but we’ve tried to offer an option at a reasonable price.
“We’ll monitor the uptake of that – at $300 it’s not out of people’s reach – and if that becomes something that most cars are optioned with then we can go back with real-life data and say in this size car customers are still demanding it, because it’s about what the customer wants really, and we’re giving them the choice.
“We’d all like everything to be in a car, every option available at a sub-$20,000 price point, but it’s not possible.”
Peugeot needs the repositioned 208 range to deliver a boost in showrooms. So far this year the city car’s sales are down 7.3 per cent to just 597 to the end of September, giving it a modest 0.7 per cent share of Australia’s light car market. Key European rivals such as the Volkswagen Polo and Renault Clio outsell it many times over (7602 and 2099 year-to-date sales respectively), while sales of the Skoda Fabia (449 year to date) are on the way up following the recent launch of the all-new model.
Stay tuned for CarAdvice's 2016 Peugeot 208 Review, coming Tuesday 27 October 2015.