Stellantis, the new company formed by the merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and France’s Groupe PSA, has pulled the plug on Peugeot, reversing plans to bring the dormant brand back to the American market.
It’s been three decades since the French company abandoned the U.S. due to declining sales and, prior to the merger, PSA launched a slow return that wasn’t expected to fully play out for at least several more years.
Now, following the merger, Stellantis decided that there is no longer a need to bring Peugeot back to the States. Instead, the company said, in the “new context,” it will “focus on existing brands.”
An excess of brands
There are plenty of those, including such well-known U.S. brands as Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram, Italy’s Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Maserati, French-based Peugeot, Citroen and DS and the German Opel/Vauxhall. While it’s possible some of these might expand into new markets, that seems off the table for now.
Significantly, Stellantis reassigned Larry Dominique to head the Alfa brand in North America. He had been in charge of the slow relaunch of Peugeot. It marks something of a homecoming for Dominique who spent several years working as an engineer at the old Chrysler Corp. before moving to Nissan.
Dominique spent the last four years as president of PSA North America with his primary assignment the revival of the Peugeot brand. Under the French automaker’s Push to Pass strategy it was expected to take as much as a decade to accomplish, starting with regional ride-sharing ventures and eventually achieving an eventual relaunch of Peugeot-badged products. Several models had been spotted around the U.S. in the last several years undergoing testing.
“The idea is to build the brand the right way,” Dominique told TheDetroitBureau.com in a 2019 interview.
In his new role he will have to follow a similar approach. Like Peugeot, Alfa Romeo abandoned the American market three decades ago due to declining sales. After several abortive efforts it relaunched here in 2014 with the limited-volume 4C model. The sports car generated lackluster demand and has been pulled from U.S. showrooms, but Alfa hasn’t delivered much better results with the two other North American models, the Giulia sports sedan and Stelvio SUV.
The brand was positioned as key to FCA’s future under the five-year plan unveiled by former CEO Sergio Marchionne in June 2018. But the strategy has been facing numerous revisions since the executive’s death barely a month later.
The decision to appoint Dominique to head Alfa’s North American operations was well received by several insiders talking on background, especially as there were concerns that Alfa could be sidelined by Stellantis.
A lot of mouths to feed
Questions still remain about whether the new company — the world’s fourth-largest automaker by sales volume — will retain all of its existing brands. For now, at least, CEO Carlos Tavares has said he intends to nurture them all.
That said, Tavares is believed to be laying out a new strategy that will, among other things, see a greater emphasis on electrification. That could become particularly significant in its impact on the old Fiat Chrysler side of the company. Under Marchionne, the automaker downplayed battery technology – though his successor, Mike Manley was starting to ramp up investments.
While Dominique will focus on Alfa in his new role, Stellantis is likely to tap some of the ideas his team developed in the now-aborted bid to revive Peugeot.
“Our [PSA] North American team in Atlanta that is preparing for the comeback of Peugeot in the U.S. market is bringing us many ideas in terms of logistics, in terms of maintenance, in terms of the distribution model, in terms of marketing communication,” Tavares told Automotive New Europe last December.
“Whatever we decide in the Stellantis world, all of those ideas will improve the way we go to market and the way we run the business,” Tavares added.