When it comes to electric vehicles, the overall strategy for the PSA Group is simple. The French auto group wants to offer across the board multi-energy platforms, which means customers will be offered petrol, diesel, hybrid and full-electric variants throughout its entire line-up.
As many automakers worry about how and when they should roll out these alternative products, PSA is firmly committed to a holistic solution for its vast – and growing – customer base. Whether you need a petrol car for long journeys, an electric car for city driving or a hybrid for anything in between, the French automaker has got you covered.
For Helen Lees, Head of Electric Vehicles at Group PSA, it is not just about focusing on one or two models, but every single product in the range.
“Starting this year with the DS 3 Crossback E-Tense and Peugeot e208, PSA will launch electrified versions of every single model in the range, aiming for 100% coverage by 2025 across our Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Opel and Vauxhall brands,” she says.
However, most importantly, it is about being realistic about the development of EVs and the infrastructure. Lees may be responsible for PSA’s electrification strategy, but she still admits to driving a diesel car, due to a lot of motorway driving and a lack of off-street parking.
Can you blame her?
Despite not having off-street parking, Lees will be purchasing an EV in January as she will soon be able to charge at her work and rapid charge points are being installed close to her home. This is just the start of the electric overhaul and, in a few years’ time, when the technology has improved to a level that allows customers to comfortably live with an EV, PSA will be there to offer a zero emission line up.
Electrifying an Icon – and Creating New Ones
From 2025, the DS brand will only launch EVs, becoming the long-term electric arm of the auto group. This has been a favoured approach from a handful of global automakers in recent years, as it allows companies to develop already distinguished brands into dedicated e-mobility divisions.
And it makes sense. DS is already the leading brand for the group in terms of electrification, recently winning the Formula E championship under DS Techeetah. In addition, the luxury brand also addresses the rising interest in the premium EV market, further expanding PSA’s offering.
The new Peugeot 2008 SUV is Lees’ favourite vehicle in the range, but the company is best known for the Peugeot 208 and Vauxhall Corsa, which are already both available to reserve in electric variants. This is a great statement from PSA, electrifying well-known and cost-efficient models for the younger generation.
However, says Lees, it doesn’t stop here. “If you want a Peugeot or Vauxhall, you’re not going to get lumbered with the only EV available. It might take time to reach our entire range, being a 5 year programme, but you are able to choose what car you want from us with zero emission capable solutions.”
This provides customers with the power of choice, which is extremely important on the journey towards electrification. The EV is no longer a standalone, quirky, green ‘toy’ that people point at in the street. This is the power of normalising EVs.
“If we want to achieve the mass-market adoption of EVs, then we need to normalise them, and I think that’s the beauty of our strategy based on customer choice,” confirms Lees.
Although a lot more environmentally-conscious, the new generation has presented the automotive industry with multiple challenges, particularly with the reduced desire for younger people to own their own vehicle.
For PSA, says Lees, electrification isn’t the only thing when looking at how the company can meet the needs and combat such things as climate change and work towards sustainable development goals.
“As well as improving the cars that we sell by driving down the CO2 and NOX output, it is also about us becoming a mobility solutions provider,” she says.
Introducing Free2Move; the halo brand for PSA in terms of mobility solutions, offering yet again an alternative to vehicle ownership. Currently, the brand is most well known for being a leasing company, but it is now being positioned to provide dealer car rental solutions, city car sharing solutions, telematics and smart services.
“We’re looking at everything when moving forward as a mobility solutions provider and using connected technology to be able to offer different services to our customers as well as focusing on the environmental impact of the cars we sell as well,” continues Lees.
Today, Free2Move is working with innovative start-ups and has acquired several companies to allow it to integrate these solutions into its business. “There’s not a one size fits all solution,” says Lees, “there’s going to be a lot of different solutions that meet a lot of our different customers’ needs.”
The Wait For an EV Future
The EV revolution will not happen overnight. There will still be an interest in traditional car ownership for years to come, so it is important that Lees and her team adopt a more organic approach, rather than forcing this change upon consumers.
“The beauty of having a car is that you can get in and do whatever you need to do without having to plan,” says Lees. “So we are looking at different solutions we can offer to ensure that electric motoring isn’t a compromise for our customers.”
So, for now, the internal combustion engine and private ownership model still have a place in society. But many consumers have a preconceived idea of whether they want a petrol, diesel or electric vehicle, when they should be looking at the profile of their driving, such as what they need a vehicle for, the cheapest solution for them and what has the least impact on the environment.
“It’s absolutely still about petrol and diesel engines,” says Lees. “We’ve got other challenges and barriers to solve which is similar to the one I experience myself. We need to be working together and PSA sits on various panels and works with parties such as the SMMT and OLEV to achieve this. As a manufacturer, we definitely see that petrol and diesel will continue to provide viable solutions for quite a long time to come, particularly because there are some things that EVs can’t do today.”
Due to this, PSA will continue to invest in improving the internal combustion engine but, equally, it strongly believes that electrification is the technology going forward. By researching and developing electrification, whether that is battery electric vehicles or plug in hybrids, PSA can work in parallel with the adoption of EVs and improvement of infrastructure such as charging stations.
“I don’t think any manufacturer would be prepared to throw their hat in the ring and say that they know exactly what technology is going to be the game changer for the next 5 decades,” Lees adds. “We know what we think works now and what we can bring to market through total cost of ownership and our customer’s needs, but we are still working on other solutions as well.”