When you think SUVs, you don't necessarily think of Peugeot. But in the space of the next 12 months, the French company is set to see an SUV range expansion that it hopes will give the brand some mainstream appeal.
The updated Peugeot 2008 small SUV kicks things off this week, followed by the 3008 mid-sized model around April (pictured top), and the larger 5008 seven-seater that will arrive before the year's out (pictured below).
This new SUV push means Peugeot will have the same number of models in the segment as Subaru (XV, Forester, Outback), Mazda (CX-3, CX-5, CX-9), and more than Kia (Sportage, Sorento) and Hyundai (Tucson, Santa Fe).
It isn't the first time the company has had more than one SUV in its ranks. In the past, Peugeot offered a pair of SUVs based on Mitsubishi products: the ASX-based 4008 and the Outlander-based 4007. It has had a 3008 before, too, though that car was less an SUV and more a chubby hatchback.
Peugeot Australia general manager Kai Bruesewitz said the company has learned some valuable lessons in the build-up to offering its new SUV line-up.
"It’s not the first time that we’ve had an SUV, and we will have three SUVs by the end of the year. We know what was wrong in the past – if you take the 2008 as an example, the drivetrain wasn’t appealing, the engine wasn’t really that great, so that combination didn’t work out," Bruesewitz stated frankly.
"In the past with our SUVs, the 2008, 4008 – they found their buyers, but not as many as Peugeot would have loved, for various reasons. So that’s important, how we try to adjust to the target audience," he said. "I think we have, now, for that model, a very good proposition.
"It should appeal to a bit broader audience," he said of the 2008's new petrol-auto-only front-drive offering.
Indeed, front-wheel-drive is a common theme among the Peugeot SUV range - none of the models that will be offered here will have all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive, and while some buyers may see that as a disadvantage, Bruesewitz reckons it'll help the company position its offerings more aggressively against Japanese competitors like Subaru.
"They’re very successful with that," he said of Subaru's push as an all-wheel-drive, rugged/adventurous brand. "And if you look at the Mazda, Toyota, and the other players in the market, in the size of, say, the Nissan X-Trail, I don’t know what they’re ratio of two-wheel-drive to four-wheel-drive, but the four-wheel drive is at the upper end of the pricing spectrum: you pay a surcharge."
Bruesewitz said that targeting the Japanese and Korean SUVs is a must. To target European brands only would be foolish, he said, because the Asian makers are pushing towards Europe more and more.
"For sales, being European is a good thing, but people are only willing to pay for that good thing to a certain extent. So we certainly won’t be so arrogant to just focus on Europeans," he said. "We need to be able to cannibalise sales from the mass market.
"Clearly they have great products, and they have become more European in the past on eye level, and our challenge and task will be to get our fair share, and we think we have a great product in 3008 and it will enable us to fish in that pond."
Bruesewitz said that the models the Peugeot brand will offer in the near future will push the perception of what Peugeot is all about to a new level.
"With the 3008, whoever has seen the car is absolutely over the moon. It has a design and interior look and quality and haptic quality that, for Peugeot, has never been there," he said.
"So it is probably, from the quality and the perception, it’s more looking up to the other players in that segment than down. For us it’s about getting the pricing right, so it is, from a pricing perspective, closer to the lower level," he said.
Bruesewitz stated that in order to fight against mainstream players, it needs mainstream pricing - and that's something he is targeting with the 3008, first and foremost.
"We can’t be too far away from CX-5. But the look and the feel of the car is that good that we don’t have to hide ourselves behind other players," he said.