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Alternating Currents: Stellantis needs Peugeot in the U.S. even if it doesn’t know it

Photo credit: Peugeot

The Stellantis merger deal is done, the dust has settled, and the giant international automaker Fiat Chrysler has merged with the giant international automaker Peugeot Société Anonyme. As the job of building cars for the world becomes ever more demanding and expensive, companies need to find economies of scale wherever they exist, and this merger between two huge companies has created the fourth-largest automaker by sales volume in the world. Peugeot has been floating the idea of a return to the U.S. market for years, even going so far as to found a North American headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. It was believed that this merger could be the springboard to launch an American Peugeot revival, but this week the kibosh was officially put on. 

Here’s the thing, though — Stellantis needs Peugeot in the U.S. and it would have made perfect sense to reintroduce the company as a style-leading EV-only European mid-price brand. This could have been the opportunity to build on Peugeot’s electric car building experience by bringing over an already impressive electric-heavy lineup. With the e-208 compact hatch, the e-2008 compact SUV, the e-Rifter tall van (which could easily be artificially butched-up into an America-ready 7-seater CUV), the company could launch with three ready-made electrics. 

If that wasn’t enough, Peugeot also has the larger 3008 available in a plug-in hybrid version, while the amazing-looking 508 sedan (and wagon) are available in standard PHEV and Peugeot Sport Edition PHEV versions. This level of electrified integration will struggle to find its way into the Stellantis brands already sold in the U.S. for many years, and gas-guzzling brand legacy will prevent them from appealing as an EV-only brand the way a relative unknown like Peugeot might. 

Photo credit: Peugeot

That isn’t to say that I’m not excited for Jeep’s foray into the plug-in hybrid space with its 4xe lineup. I think those vehicles will be a lot of quiet off-road fun. That said, I remain skeptical that a brand known in recent years for stuffing a 10 mile per gallon supercharged V8 into an insensitively-named full-sized SUV will find a market with the PHEV curious. Would the Renegade 4xe sell better as a hybrid version of the Fiat 500x it is based on? I doubt it. But could it sell better without the petro-masculine toxicity of the Jeep brand behind it, perhaps as a Peugeot-branded SUV? I think it could. 

As it stands, Stellantis is in a desperate position here in the U.S. market as the ground moves out from under them. Chrysler and Dodge are basically dead brands walking with only three platforms between them comprising five models. Jeep and Ram are cash cows at the moment with big truck and SUV sales. Even Fiat has no idea what to do with itself in the U.S. market with dismal sales. Alfa Romeo’s return has been milquetoast at best, and Maserati is… Well, it’s Maserati. If that brand weren’t two missteps from failure at any point, it wouldn’t exist at all. None of those seven brands even offer an EV, and only two will sell you anything with a plug. 

EV adoption has gotten off to a slow start here in the U.S. market, but by many accounts BEV sales are set to double in 2021 over 2020, which was already an impressive year for battery electrics. Add in that some states are adopting electric car mandates within fifteen years, and being late to the party isn’t going to bode well for Stellantis. It’s time to get serious about zero emissions vehicles, and the only way to do that is to build and sell them. The company already has a boat load of electric Peugeots in its portfolio, and it could probably mix them with a handful of electric Citroën models (e-C4 and Ami) to develop a nice EV offering. And that’s to say nothing of the by-all-accounts-amazing second-generation Fiat 500 electric. If a company wants to be known for selling EVs in 10 to 15 years when it’s all but mandatory, it should probably get started developing that reputation right now. 

Such a missed opportunity. 

PEUGEOT 508PHEV SW 1809PB 002 0
Photo credit: Peugeot

Did I write all of this because I want Stellantis to sell me a brand-new Peugeot 508 PSE SW with the award-winning plug-in hybrid performance of 360 horsepower and 26 miles of electric driving range, plus the gorgeous aesthetics and practicality of a mid-sized European wagon? Of course I did. Stellantis, make it happen!

Written by Bradley Brownell
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