You’ve read this before, but this time around Peugeot really is coming to India. Nikhil Bhatia has his wish list ready of the cars that it should get to India.
Will they? Won’t they? The saga of Peugeot’s re-entry into India has been ongoing for years now. But at long last the French carmaker seems ready and willing to take the plunge. Peugeot has just entered into a joint venture with India’s CK Birla Group for the assembly and distribution of its cars, and another one for the production of powertrains. With a planned manufacturing capacity of 1,00,000 vehicles per annum at the proposed plant in Tamil Nadu, Peugeot means business this time. The first Peugeots for India will roll out in 2020.
The question is, which models will Peugeot bring to India? Given our road conditions, the most relevant one would be the 2017 Dakar-winning 3008DKR but something tells me it won’t make it here… On a serious note, Peugeot’s international line-up comprises hatchbacks (108, 208 and 308), sedans (301 and 508), crossovers and SUVs (2008, 3008 and 5008) and MPVs (5008 MPV), and it’s the strongest that Peugeot’s range has been in years. PSA has additionally announced that it will launch cars built on its new modular CMP platform in India which implies that small to mid-size hatchbacks, sedans and SUVs will be the focus. So let’s see what could make it to India.
Of Peugeot’s existing range, the 301 seems a prime candidate for India. The Maruti Ciaz and Honda City-sized sedan is an honest, no-nonsense car that’s been developed for emerging markets. It is designed to be hardy and tough and would perfectly link to the 309, the last Peugeot sold in India in the 1990s. The trouble is that the current 301, first shown in 2012, lacks the visual sparkle that makes the newer lot of Peugeots stand out. Then again, we are talking of a model that will launch only in 2020 so it wouldn’t be too speculative to say the next-gen 301 would be on the cards for India. I can only hope Peugeot develops a tough, large hatchback on the lines of the 301 to take on the Balenos and i20s of the market too.
Peugeot’s existing hatchback line-up is interesting too but I don’t see the very European hatches headed our way. Sophisticated, sleek and eye-catching as they are, they could prove too costly for our market. That is after all the reason Volkswagen doesn’t sell the Golf in India. Another Peugeot sedan that could be considered for India is the 508. Internationally, a rival to the VW Passat and Skoda Superb, the attractive 508 would be too expensive to sell in big numbers. But it could be a vehicle to establish Peugeot as a relatively premium carmaker in India and could also serve as a technology demonstrator. Peugeot is big in diesels and hybrids are an area of focus too.
Where Peugeot could really make inroads is in the SUV and crossover space. It currently has three models that fit the bill for India. The 2008 crossover slots in between the Renault Duster and Skoda Yeti, the sexy and distinctive 3008 would take on the Hyundai Tucson and the new range-topping seven-seater 5008 SUV would be a rival for the upcoming Skoda Kodiaq. But there’s scope for another model too.
PSA boss Carlos Tavares has stated that the company will start in India with an annual production of 10,000-15,000 units. If my reading is correct, the numbers aren’t sufficient to make a business case for a hatchback or even a mid-size sedan for that matter. The numbers, however, do correspond to about what the Renault Duster manages each year. And if you think about it, a Duster-sized SUV would be the right vehicle to launch Peugeot with in India. Genuine Dakar pedigree, proven diesel engine and distinct French styling – won’t that be interesting? I really think a small SUV could do for Peugeot what the Duster did for Renault India.
Finally, in the spirit of this being a wish list, is it too much to hope that Peugeot revives the hot RCZ coupe and gets it to India? Fingers crossed.