Figuring out the dealer network hasn’t been easy.
In 2016, Peugeot announced it’d return to North America, setting the deadline to do so a decade down the road. The French automaker then laid out its roadmap to return to the US, accelerating those plans in April 2019 in hopes of returning to the market in 2023 instead of 2026. That remains the plan, according to a new report from The Detroit Bureau, even as the coronavirus pandemic has strained the situation.
Word of Peugeot maintaining its 2023 return date came from PSA North American President Larry Dominique during a keynote address to the Center for Automotive Research’s annual Management Briefing Seminars, according to the publication. Dominique said the automaker is struggling to determine how it wants to sell cars in North America, saying PSA will use franchise dealers while leaning heavily into online retail. Dominque pointed to subpar customer satisfaction with the dealer model as one reason the company is looking to the internet. Customers want “a simpler, more efficient” car-buying process, he added.
Gallery: 2021 Peugeot 308
PSA’s return to North American comes as the company lets the ink dry on a partnership deal with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The deal is expected to close in early 2021. The new company, called Stellantis, will be the fourth-largest carmaker in the world with annual deliveries of around 8.7 million vehicles. The 13 total car brands will continue, too, which could play a role in how Peugeot sells its cars to customers.
The company’s bucking of the traditional dealer network isn’t a secret. When the automaker announced it’d accelerate its return plan, we knew it’d forgo the traditional dealer network. However, the automaker didn’t detail what it’s retail strategy would look like, or how it’d allow potential customers to see and test drive the vehicles. When the coronavirus pandemic surged, closing dealerships, many rushed to meet customers online. If consumers are looking for more convenient ways to buy a car, then Peugeot’s return while bucking traditions could be a win formula.