Peugeot Considers Talbot Revival to Win Slice of Budget Market
By Andy Bannister
Faced with a declining Western European market, the French company needs to look for extra market niches, but must avoid devaluing the status of its existing badges. Both Peugeot and Citroën have been trying to edge upscale away from lower-priced competitors like Hyundai and Skoda.
A cheap-to-build but roomy series of models, probably based on existing proven technology and platforms and manufactured locally, would be ideal for boosting the company’s presence in key markets like China, Russia, India or Brazil. Versions could also be imported back into Europe.
The obvious blueprint for this is Dacia, which a few years ago was a joke manufacturer of shoddily-built mutant Renault 12s. Now fully integrated into Renault, it is a major success story and well on the way towards selling a million units annually.
The low manufacturing costs in Romania combined with a commitment by Renault to develop and rapidly productionise new purpose-designed models mean Dacia’s budget-priced Logan and its promising new Sandero are much in demand.
Peugeot – once a major player in third world countries with its big models like the everlasting 504 – has been wrong-footed by its arch-rival and has few options in terms of buying up existing budget brands. Russia’s Lada also recently fell into the hands of Renault.
Currently, Peugeot addresses the bottom end of the market with the reasonably successful Czech-built 107 minicar, also sold as the Citroën C1 and as the Toyota Aygo, since the factory is a joint Franco-Japanese venture. The 107, though, is much smaller than the Logan and cannot hope to match is value-for-money credentials.
A new budget brand does make sense, although given the chequered history of Talbot, that marque hardly has positive associations in the minds of European motorists today.
This is almost entirely due to the botched revival of the marque after Peugeot bought Chrysler Europe’s rag-bag of factories and models back in 1979. Models which carried the Chrysler name in the UK and Spain and the Simca one in France needed to have a new identity, and the Talbot badge was chosen because historically it had been associated with both French and British cars.
Unfortunately, most of the existing cars rebadged as Talbots were duffers, and new models like the Tagora executive saloon and the Samba small hatchback were also ill-judged.
Buyers were confused about what Talbot stood for and began deserting the marque in droves, and its sales simply fell away to nothing.
By 1986 the experiment was largely over, with the last Talbot car models being sold. Talbot’s new mid-range hatchback, codenamed Arizona, had a last-minute identity change and emerged in as the Peugeot 309, itself not a great success.
The last Talbot was a van, the Express, sold in Britain up to 1992.
An optimist looking at the new plan could easily say that if Renault managed to rehabilitate Dacia (a trick also mirrored in Volkswagen’s success with the once-reviled Skoda marque), Talbot should not be that difficult to relaunch, particularly in a field where value-for-money is more important than the allure of a badge.
COPYRIGHT Autosavant – All Rights Reserved