The RCZ is already being touted as Peugeot's TT and the 3008 finally gives it a well-priced compact SUV.
"In terms of what it can do for the brand, it’s got huge potential," Richard Grant, head of Peugeot Australia, says of the RCZ. If you look at what the TT did for Audi, it was their turning point. And I think RCZ has the potential to be that for us – particularly with it coming at the same time as something as fabulous as 3008, which has much broader appeal and volume appeal. With what we’ve got coming with 3008 – provided we can get the numbers we need – it’s looking very positive."
Grant says launching the two new vehicles close together in the middle of this year will give a big boost to Peugeot's brand recognition. "It’s perfect timing for us to have a compact SUV like the 3008 with the volume it has, and then a little bit after that to be launching a sports car," he says. "It means there’s going to be a lot of buzz about Peugeot. They’re great products, they’re new, they’re fresh, they’re exciting – so we’ve got plenty to be optimistic about."
He believes the newcomers could finally help reverse a massive sales slide in recent years and put Peugeot back on a solid growth path. Sales fell by more than one third and the global financial crisis made things even worse.
"The signs are there, hopefully, for our run rate to pick up. I think this year we’ll finish without a doubt better than last year. We’re aiming for somewhere between 6500 and 7000, and next year we’d hope to be back up in the 7000-8000 bracket. There are a lot of European companies making predictions about what they’ll do five years from now… but realistically if we could be doing 10,000-12,000 units by then, that would be a pretty good achievement."
Grant admits Peugeot has been doing badly but says there are reasons. “We know there are reasons why things have happened the way they have and why we’re down, but we know we’re going to come back up. Things are definitely on the up now," he says.
He says the brand was just starting to show signs of improving – with the 308 range making a splash – when the financial crisis hit, with roll-on impact. "We’ve been short on supply, because coming out of the GFC Peugeot obviously scaled back production in Europe. That affected us. It meant models like 308 Touring pulled back, and we’ve had restrictions on 207... that affected our volume."
Grant says sales had risen in 2007 to about 8800, dropped 10 per cent to 7200 in 2008 – and then the financial impact really took hold in 2009, with numbers plummeting to 5700. "That resulted in us having a lot of excess stock, because we had been ordering cars on the basis of a higher run rate. So we suddenly found ourselves with a falling sales rate and increasing stock levels – and we had a problem."