France’s PSA Group -- the maker of Peugeots and Citroens -- is taking its first significant step to re-enter the U.S. market by naming former TrueCar and Nissan executive Larry Dominique to spearhead the project.
Dominique, 54, will be senior vice president for PSA North America, in charge of putting the automaker back in the United States for first time since the Peugeot brand exited in 1991.
“This is a market that, as a full-line automaker, you need to be part of,” Dominique told Automotive News via phone Wednesday as he toured U.S. cities to select a location for the company’s headquarters. “But this is a 10-year project. It’s not about jumping in and creating market share as quickly as possible.”
The strategy, revealed late last year by PSA CEO Carlos Tavares, is to re-enter the U.S. through nontraditional means. Under Tavares’ “Push to Pass” global business plan, Dominique’s mission is to first establish PSA as a U.S. mobility company, providing consumers with ride-hailing and car-sharing services.
PSA will then begin populating those mobility services with its French-brand vehicles. And finally, the automaker will launch its own sales channel.
Dominique said that PSA has not decided which of its three brands -- Peugeot, Citroen or DS -- will be launched here. Nor has it decided whether retailing will occur through a traditional independent dealership-based distribution network or some other way.
He declined to say how much PSA is prepared to spend to re-establish a U.S. foothold.
“It’s going to be a significant amount of money to re-enter the market,” he said. “But we haven’t set a number.
“If we can find more efficient ways to market and sell our vehicles -- whether it’s in a traditional partnership with investors or not -- those are things that can heavily influence the cost of coming to market.”
Dominique’s new assignment reunites him with Tavares.
Before a management stint with TrueCar -- which included the presidency of the industry valuation firm Automotive Lease Guide -- Dominique was a former General Motors engineer who joined Nissan Motor Co. in the 1980s and later steered the development of Nissan’s full-size pickup, the Titan.
He went on to head Nissan’s product development for the Americas, which first brought him together with Tavares, who was then in charge of Nissan’s global product planning in Japan.
Tavares became Nissan’s chairman for the Americas in Nashville, with Dominique working for him in charge of product planning for the region.
Since moving from Renault-Nissan Alliance to PSA, Tavares has taken the automaker from near-bankruptcy to its highest profitability in 14 years, with the help of a rescue from the French government.
In a sign of that rebirth, Tavares last month led PSA to acquire the European Opel/Vauxhall subsidiary of General Motors.
PSA wants a clean-slate approach to re-entering the United States.
Asked what lessons PSA learned from its past failure that will now guide it in 2017, Dominique reasoned that the question is not relevant.
“The reality is that Peugeot as a brand left the United States 26 years ago,” he said. “The marketplace is so different today. What happened back then -- what went right, what might have gone wrong, the reasons for the exit -- to me are irrelevant now. The brands themselves, the vehicles that PSA produces are so different than their positioning back then.”
He said PSA will study the market as it rolls out its 10-year plan, using its interactions with consumers in mobility settings to learn what they like and don’t like about vehicles.
PSA’s mobility brand, Free2Move, will include various businesses.
The first mobility effort here was through PSA’s partnership with battery company Bollore, which runs an electric car-sharing program in Indianapolis called BlueIndy.
That partnership is now running an electric car-sharing pilot program in Los Angeles dubbed BlueLA, with 100 vehicles and 200 charging stations.
PSA also owns an interest in TravelerCar, a company that gives free airport parking to drivers who wish to rent out their cars while traveling. The service opened for business on April 3 at Los Angeles International Airport.
“Positioning a brand in the U.S. marketplace -- which is very crowded today -- is going to take patience, analysis and data,” Dominique said. “And it’s going to take careful execution. That’s why we’re not rushing into this.
“This 10-year plan to come back into the United States is just a timeframe of activities,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we’re going to wait 10 years; we want to be firmly established in North America in 10 years.”