Peugeot Citroën Japon accelerates its growth in Japan
Text by Toby Waters / Photo by Kageaki Smith
Text by Toby Waters / Photo by Kageaki Smith
Groupe PSA — owner of the premium DS Automobiles brand and the Peugeot and Citroën brands — is the second-largest vehicle manufacturer in Europe. While its Japanese subsidiary, Peugeot Citroën Japon, is still comparatively small, Christophe Prévost, who has been with the firm since 1992 and became CEO of the branch in 2015, is confident of the continued success of its products here.
Over the last four fiscal years, the fortunes of Groupe PSA’s major brands in Japan have, in fact, improved dramatically. Peugeot experienced a 67% rise in sales while Citroën enjoyed an astonishing 85% increase in the same period. Last year alone, Peugeot’s sales improved 20%, and Citroën’s increased by 13%.
According to Prévost, the growing popularity of its vehicles can be attributed to the fact that Groupe PSA is giving Japan something it hasn’t seen before.
“The way to exist in this market is to play on our assets,” states Prévost. “Our internal as well as external design is different, and something we invest time and money in. For instance, we have i-Cockpit, a new dashboard design for Peugeot. We also offer different colours — we love to combine different colours in the same car.”
The introduction of its DS series of vehicles to Japan is certainly another reason it is garnering more attention here.“DS Automobiles embodies French luxury savoir-faire — they are cars driven by French presidents, so it was important for us to bring that same presidential mood to Japan,” says Prévost. “When a Japanese customer decides to buy a non-Japanese car, it needs to offer difference, something linked with pleasure, design and a way of life.”
“First, you discover the DS with your eyes, from the outside, as it is so different from other cars,” he says. “We have introduced a certain refinement to the car — there is something surprising with the lights, there is a B.R.M clock.”
The experience of driving a DS 7 CROSSBACK is equally as exceptional as its appearance.
“It is very quiet, which is impressive as it’s an SUV,” Prévost continues, “and remarkable in terms of its road handling, especially given its tall alloy wheels. It also has DS Night-Vision, as an option for some grades, and level-two autonomous driving, called DS Connected Pilot.”
The DS’s most impressive aspect, according to Prévost, is its DS Active Scan Suspension, a function that enables the car to automatically adjust to rugged road conditions and maintain a smooth, comfortable ride. This is a modern extension of the firm’s legendary self-levelling suspension, something it pioneered in the first DS in 1955.
DS 7 CROSSBACK
“The car screens the road to see if something is wrong ahead and, automatically, it adapts the suspension of the car,” he says.
As an added incentive to become part of the DS family, Peugeot Citroën Japon provides premium perks for DS drivers. Its DS Club Privilege gives Japanese customers an exclusive taste of French culture. Two events were organised in 2018.
“We had a French lunch at the French Embassy in July with Ambassador Laurent Pic, and we also had a wine tasting at a Michelin one-star restaurant in Tokyo in October — the winner of the world’s best sommelier competition for 1992 came to Tokyo and explained to our customers how to appreciate wine,” Prévost notes. “We create a new experience for customers each quarter.”
Last year was a milestone year for Peugeot Citroën Japon, having introduced the DS 7 CROSSBACK in July and opened its first DS STORE in Tokyo — there are now eight DS outlets across Japan, with four more scheduled to open by July 2019. But an exciting future is clearly awaiting the group in Japan. This year is set to be a busy one and a turning point for the three brands here.
“We’re releasing five products in total to nourish the brands: two SUVs for Citroën: the C3 AIRCROSS and the C5 AIRCROSS; the new 508 Fastback Saloon for Peugeot; one compact SUV for DS: the DS 3 CROSSBACK and something else that’s still a surprise,” says Prévost.
In particular, DS Automobiles’ latest product for the Japan market, the DS 3 CROSSBACK, is expected to attract a new audience and extend the range of the brand’s current customer demographic.
“It’s city-oriented, so it’s different from the DS 7 CROSSBACK,” notes Prévost. “It’ll be a smaller car, more attractive to women, but it’s in the DNA of the brand to be premium-oriented, so many details are from the French luxury industry.”
Making your mark on a market requires more than just an impressive product, however. Prévost believes Peugeot Citroën Japon’s multicultural management structure is another reason for its continued growth.
“It’s very important to put French staff among our numerous Japanese staff members to discuss and share different behaviours,” he says. “The key to maintaining growth is to act as a French company run in a country that’s not France — with discipline, respect and confidence.”
Another key to success for Prévost is for employees at every level of the organisation have the right attitude.
“We need to make our Japanese staff confident in the brand power,” he explains. “We need to act like a big company, while always respecting local practices.”
As the Citroën brand prepares to celebrate its centenary later this year, Prevost sums up the optimism that fills his firm, his team, and himself.
“We think there’s room to grow more and more here,” he says. “The story has just started.” •