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PSA Brands Travel Separate Roads on Hybrid-Electric Vehicle Development

Peugeot will sell a version of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV in 2010 or 2011, while PSA says Citroen will produce its own hybrid-electric car, without specifying the timeframe.

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GENEVA – The Peugeot and Citroen brands are moving closer together in many areas, but when it comes to electric cars they will travel their separate ways.

On the eve of the auto show here, parent PSA Peugeot Citroen announced a definitive agreement with Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors Corp. to sell a Peugeot version of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car in Europe in late 2010 or early 2011.

On its show stand here, Citroen shows its C-Cactus, which started life as a hybrid-electric vehicle. PSA says Citroen will produce such a car, without specifying the timeframe.

However, PSA says its long-promised diesel hybrids are on schedule for a market arrival in 2011. The Peugeot 3008 Hybrida4 and Citroen DS5Hybrid4 will both be 4-wheel-drive hybrids, with an electric motor on the rear axle and a front-wheel drive diesel.

And surprisingly, PSA says it is focusing research particularly on plug-in hybrids with an electric range of about 31 miles (50 km). The French auto maker says a range extender solves many problems presented by electric cars: range, time required to recharge and the embryonic state of recharge points in the early years of electric vehicles.

PSA does not indicate when it would market its first plug-ins, which until now have been associated mainly with General Motors Corp. and Adam Opel GmbH.

The Citroen DS5 will be the second upscale Citroen in the recently announced DS line. The DS3 will be the first to appear, in 2010, and will look like the DS Inside concept car shown here.

Citroen is the most recent brand to succumb to the temptation among volume auto makers to move upscale. Volkswagen and Renault models have languished in their attempts to combat Audi AG, Mercedes-Benz and BMW AG, but Citroen is aiming at the Mini with its DS3.

The DS Inside, which shares most of its character with the coming production car, has a Mini look and feel, including a long roof line of a different color and a back end that falls somewhere between a hatch and a station wagon. With its two doors, the DS Inside is almost a shooting brake.

The DS initials harken back to the Citroen DS, which – with the 2CV – are the best-known Citroens, and the DS is a regular player in the world’s collector car shows.

Ultimately, Citroen plans to have DS versions on all three PSA platforms, but it will start with the small version and work its way upstream. The DS4 likely will arrive after the DS5 Hybrid4 in 2011.

Other eco-friendly Citroen technologies on display are the Stop and Start micro-hybridization technology scheduled to be on 1 million PSA vehicles in a few years, and the concept rally-car C4 WRC Hybrid4.

Peugeot uses Geneva to push its 3008, a compact minivan-cross/utility vehicle that will compete with Citroen’s C4 Picasso and the new Renault Megane Scenic.

The 3008 was previewed by the Prologue concept unveiled in Paris last year and is positioned as a cross between a sedan, CUV and minivan. It aims to compete with Nissan Motor Co. Ltds.’s Qashqai.

The 3008, which will become Peugeot’s first diesel hybrid in two years, is joined on the show stand by the Peugeot 308CC, a coupe cabriolet. Among its features is a neck heater, called “Airwave,” pyrotechnically operated rollover bars and a head airbag.

There is some indication PSA’s technology attack is more than a matter of marketing. For the second year in a row, the auto maker has been granted more patents in France than any other company. The company held 961 patents in 2008, according to the French patent-agency Institut National de la Propriété Industrielle.

TAGS: Vehicles
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