PSA/Peugeot-Citroen and Fiat want their redesigned minivans to capture a larger share of the MPV segment.
The partners' Sevel Nord joint venture builds the full-size minivans in Lieu Saint-Amand, France. The second generation of the new minivans will go on sale in September.
Europe's minivan segment has been stable for three years at 350,000 units. Volume may grow to 380,000 or even 400,000 units during the next few years, said Christian Fabry, spokesman for Automobiles Peugeot. France is the largest MPV market in Europe, with annual sales of around 100,000, followed by Germany at 58,000 and Italy at 36,000.
The PSA/Fiat joint venture was launched eight years ago. PSA's Citroen Evasion and Peugeot 806 have traditionally outsold their sister vehicles, the Fiat Ulysse and Lancia Zeta. Last year, all four brands combined sold just 29,590 units, down from a 1999 peak of 72,500.
'We plan to sell 41,000 units of our new 807 in the first full year,' Fabry said.
Citroen, Fiat and Lancia expect annual sales in Europe of 39,500, 24,500 and 5,000, respectively, for the new versions.
The Renault Espace led minivan sales in Europe in 2001 with 59,721 units.
The original PSA/Fiat MPV uses a uniform platform and single body design, with minor styling differences to differentiate the brands.
'But the new version, for which a completely redesigned underbody structure has been developed, left us more freedom to differentiate styling,' said Christophe Chateau, product manager of the PSA/Fiat MPV.
Principal design was created under Curtis Gwin at PSA's Carrieres-sous-Poissy studio in France. Each of the four models has a more unique front-end appearance.
'For the new Fiat Ulysse and Lancia Phedra different door panels and side windows are also applied,' said Chateau. 'That makes them look more different.'
The new models are 270mm longer with improved practicality and are more user friendly.
Individual brand identity has also been improved because PSA and Fiat did not alter the style of the commercial light vehicle versions developed on the original platform.
Total investment in the new generation MPVs was E650 million, split equally between PSA and Fiat.
Capacity at the Sevel Nord plant is 480 units per day or 110,000 per year.