domingo, 22 de enero de 2012

An overview of a weak player: PSA, part I

Figures from last year car sales are horrid. I haven't seen any Catalan figures as of yet, but for the whole Spanish market have been so wrong, they've come back to 1993. And for those who can't remember, Spain suffered from a real state crisis back then.

Fortunately, other markets in Europe were not that bad. The German market, for instance, is quite healthy. Not strong, but healthy. I haven't heard anything about Italy or Greece, but I guess their situation is more similar to Spain than it is to Germany. France, on the other hand, has just lost its AAA status, meaning financial problems in the future. It might not be important for baker shops and calvados sales, but for the car industry, that relies a lot on financial structures to sell their vehicles, it may have a deep effect.

This rather long economic introduction comes handy to understand the situation of a major car company here in Europe: the PSA group, which basically means Citroën and Peugeot. Unlike many other carmakers, that have been joining to create huge industrial groups, PSA has just dealt with other manufacturers for specific projects. They created a 3.0 V6 petrol engine with Renault years ago. And the C1/107/Aygo with Toyota so they could be in the small car market. And they joined Mitsubishi to grab their share of the SUV market. Oh, and also joined BMW for their 1.6 litre petrol engine. And Ford for their diesel engines. And Fiat/Lancia for their people carrier. So, what do they do on their own? Front wheel drive platforms. Which is like a restaurant that says they are great at salads. No complaints about that, but it doesn't sound tempting, does it?

So, there is this small group that has refused to grow, and as a result of that, exports outside Europe are virtually non-existent.  And, as we have seen before, sales in Europe are far from great. What the PSA group needs now, more than ever, is a great success. A new car that hits the market like an H-bomb. And guess what? the last car that managed to do so is called the Nissan Qashqai. And it's Japanese. Except for one tiny little detail: it's got French engines. By Renault, obviously.

The last major success from PSA was the Peugeot 206 CC. About ten years ago, they set up the standard for small, coupe-cabriolet cars. Since then, they've sold the same old, lame cars anyone could build and sell. Renault created the Scénic before Citroën created the Picasso. Everybody has their own SUV except for PSA group. Now that Fiat has bought Chrysler, Renault is enjoying a great sex life with Nissan, and all the other mainstream European companies are under the Volkswagen AG or GM umbrella, PSA looks weak.