If you’re young and from America, there’s a solid chance you may have never heard of French automakers Peugeot and Citroen. And that’s OK! It’s been over 25 years since either brand, now both part of Groupe PSA, last sold a car in the United States. Their reputation for quirkiness, spotty reliability, and difficult parts availability prevented them from ever truly catching on here, and this led them to exit the market.
Anyone remember the Citroen XM, Europe’s Car of the Year in 1990? Or how about the Peugeot 405? Neither do I, really; I was only a toddler then. But those two were the last hurrahs for Groupe PSA before leaving the market in 1991. The Citroen officially ceased selling cars in the US in 1974, though the XM was the last new-at-the-time Citroen imported and federalized in the U.S. through a third-party.
France’s auto industry and Groupe PSA are doing just fine on home turf in Europe and abroad in Asia, however. French competitor Renault endures another year paired up with Nissan, marking its 19th anniversary. And things are going so well that Peugeot and Citroen see market potential in North America.
Groupe PSA recently announced that it will be breaking ground on a new North American-based HQ in Atlanta, Georgia, joining Porsche USA and more recently, Mercedes-Benz USA. And the only reason that the company would form a new regional operations hub is because it’s about to do some business. Does that mean we’ll be seeing new Peugeot and Citroen dealerships pop up? Not quite.
In 2016, Groupe PSA announced its return to the U.S. market with a three-phase plan, a part of its larger global initiative, “Push to Pass.” But to keep with recent car trends, the company seeks to introduce some new mobility services featuring cars from its portfolios. In other words, the company wants to slowly reintroduce itself to the U.S. market with a factory-sanctioned car-sharing service featuring Peugeot or Citroen models. This will hopefully gauge U.S. customer interest for retail sales, which is the plan’s ultimatum.
“We’re pleased to announce today that we will begin our North American operations in Seattle,” said Groupe PSA Senior Vice President of Mobility, Brigitte Courtehoux. “As we begin to add more providers and roll out to new cities, Free2Move will enrich the lives of Americans who embrace innovative, non-traditional forms of transportation.”
So far, Groupe PSA made its first step in October of 2017, launching a new car-sharing service in Seattle called Free2Move. Think of it as a rising competitor to services like Car2Go, Zip Car, and TravelCar.
“The decision to launch a service that helps people move around in the most efficient way underscores our commitment to the future of Groupe PSA,” said Groupe PSA’s North America President and CEO, Larry Dominique. “As mobility services evolve and innovate based on the way people think about and consume mobility, bringing Free2Move stateside provides us with a unique way to address consumer demands, as well as a flexible platform to roll out future products.”
Groupe PSA didn’t specifically share which cars in its portfolio will land stateside. But either way, it’s the first few baby steps for the company’s reintroduction into the U.S. market. And that’s a bit exciting, since it’s been almost three decades since a new Peugeot or Citroen officially sold here. It’s a similar allure that created the buzz surrounding Alfa Romeo’s return to our shores.
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