French car makers feel the pinch as crucial Paris Motor Show looms – no wonder with ads like this

French car makers are having a tough time, their mass market models are being squeezed by Volkswagen at the top end and Korean brands like Kia and Hyundai at the bottom.

PSA Peugeot Citroen is in the worst shape (Renault’s tie-up with Nissan seems to be working better). The company is currently trying to close a big factory in France, never easy.

At the Paris Motor Show PSA is going to show lots of new models in a possibly vain attempt to get sales moving. But arguably its most important car, the new 208, is already out there.

When the 208 first appeared 20 or so years ago it was a big hit, too much of one in some hands. One of the first affordable hot hatchbacks, many young drivers found it irresistible and proceeded to drive off roads and into trees. But those that survived swore by it.

The new one is doubtless a fine machine. But the advertising?

I’ve watched this numerous times as PSA has been spending lots of its reducing cash pile on it in the UK and I’ve still no idea what it’s supposed to be about. Or why they chose a nerd like this to front it.

‘Let Your Body Drive’ it says. Apparently this is supposed to demonstrate the ‘intense sensation’ of driving the thing. With that body (no, it’s not Nick Clegg)?

The ad emanated from some part of the Havas empire, BETC or the now defunct Euro RSCG. The European car industry is all about marketing; get that right and you don’t have to discount quite so much. So you may just make a profit.

But you won’t do that by running campaigns like this.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.


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    Do you mean the 205 GTI? A great car expecially the 1.9 GTI. I can confirm that the trees were a hazard though.

  2. Avatar

    Was the 205GTi that the young dudes drove into the scenery, back in the 80s. But you are right about the lame commercial.

  3. Avatar

    Whoops! Shows how much i know about cars..