GENEVA – Most auto makers at the auto show here are following the pattern for press conferences held in Detroit earlier this year: an executive makes an introduction, shows a movie and calls for the cars to come on stage.
But Peugeot introduces its 208 with a panache that has been missing since the global economic crisis hit in 2008. Dancers come on stage to hug the B-class 208, dance around it and pull the covers off two concept versions that certainly already are in planning.
The 208 is essential for PSA Peugeot Citroen, in part simply because it is new. The industry has been heavily discounting the carryover vehicles in this class, and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne says manufacturers are not even recovering their variable costs in the B-segment.
As a new car, Peugeot expects to avoid the deep discounts that have prevailed since last summer, an effect of overcapacity in Europe and the perceived need to keep factories running.
The 208 family is only part of Peugeot’s world launch program here. It also introduces the 508 Hybrid 4 sedan and the 4008, a compact cross/utility vehicle that is a sister of the Mitsubishi Outlander and Citroen C4 Aircross.
But the 208 clearly is the star.
“It is a sensual, pure, sophisticated design,” says Gilles Vidal, the head designer.
The car weighs 243 lbs. (110 kg) less than the 207, is 2.8 ins. (7 cm) shorter outside and 2.0 ins. (5 cm) longer inside and emits 34 g/km less carbon dioxide than its predecessor.
Vincent Rambaud, general manager of the Peugeot brand, says the 208 concepts unveiled are just concepts but admits teams of product planners are working on them.
The GTi Concept is a reminder of the 205 Gate, a hot hatch that caught the imagination of young people and was a smash success in the early 1990s.
Perhaps the equivalent today is the other show car, the XY Concept.
“It is named for Generation X and Generation Y,” says Rambaud. “They are the ones behind the trend favoring small but luxurious cars.
“Fifteen years ago, luxury meant big cars. Now there is a demand for small, compact, sophisticated cars that are distinguished from the basic B-segment vehicles by their interior materials, sophisticated colors and treatment of light.”
An XY 208 fits handsomely with the brand’s desire to move upscale, and Rambaud says he could imagine an XY version of the 308 too. However, Peugeot won’t make XY a sub-brand as Citroen has done with the DS series, because the Peugeot marque can cover both volume models and more exclusive versions, he says.
The XY Concept features PSA’s 1.6L e-HDi diesel and 6-speed manual transmission. The body is painted with 16 coats of crimson and lacquer that change aspect with different angles of viewing. Interior trim features crimson stitched leather with black leather trimming the glass roof.