Former Nissan exec to lead PSA brands' return to the US

Larry Dominique says it's a 10-year-project to reestablish PSA in USA.

There will be no "Here's what we did earlier" moment for PSA in the United States. The brands built by the French manufacturer are of varying reputation in the US: Since Peugeot left the American market in the early 1990s, an American customer is most likely to be aware of the Peugeot 205 GTI hatchback or the Citroën DS, the former of which was never even officially imported to the States, and the latter a car weird enough to do taxi duty in 2015 in "Back to the Future II."

The last cars Peugeot sold in the US were the squarely styled, rear-wheel-drive 505 saloon and wagon, and the front-drive 405 offered in both bodystyles. As for Citroën, it left USA as early as 1974, with a few cars making it via specialist importers. The third offering of PSA is DS, which can be seen as a boutique version of Citroën – a Lexus/Infiniti sort of offering ranging from city hatches to midsize cars.

And of course PSA is the new owner of Opel, another nameplate long gone from the States.

But now it's clear PSA Group wants to reestablish a foothold on the US market. The "Push to Pass" global business plan outlined by PSA and its CEO Carlos Tavares will see the company reinvent itself as a mobility company, not one that used to make those hot, hot hatches and the classy saloons (which it still does, but not for Americans). The project to gain a position in the States is through ride-hailing and car-sharing, using PSA products to create visibility and exposure for them. And now, PSA has enlisted former Nissan executive Larry Dominique, a 30-year-veteran of the U.S. automotive industry, to lead the reentry.

Automotive News quotes Dominique saying it's going to take a decade to make it happen, but that a U.S. presence cannot be ignored. "This is a market that, as a full-line automaker, you need to be part of ... but this is a 10-year project. It's not about jumping in and creating market share as quickly as possible."

"The reality is that Peugeot as a brand left the United States 26 years ago. The brands themselves, the vehicles that PSA produces are so different than their positioning back then. What happened back then – what went right, what might have gone wrong, the reasons for the exit – to me are irrelevant now," says Dominique.

The first steps of the project have already been taken, as PSA and its partner TravelCar have now launched a car-sharing service at the Los Angeles International Airport, called Free2Move. Later on, Free2Move will expand elsewhere. Another similar program is called BlueLA, which operates 100 shared vehicles and 200 charging stations in Los Angeles, using vehicles developed by PSA and its battery partner Bollore. An earlier phase of the BlueLA program was started in Indianapolis, under the name of BlueIndy.

"With the creation of the PSA North American entity, PSA Group makes an important step forward in the roll-out of our project to progressively enter the region" said Carlos Tavares. "Moving forward, we will ramp up our mobility activities and the development of car-sharing services, among other efforts. Today we start with our partner TravelCar."

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