The French language has widely been regarded as “seductive”, thus it has been, time and again, voted as the world’s “sexiest language”. So, if the French talk the talk, can they walk the (French) walk?
French lifestyle and culture has backed up the language. Everything about them, the cuisine, fashion, history, oozes of passion and that zest for life and living. Admittedly though, we Filipinos aren’t that immersed that much in the automotive heritage of the French. And the only link we have with French mobility right now is with the Peugeot brand (pronounced “poo-jZHO“, with a bedroom voice, if you insist).
Nevertheless, Peugeot has been a well-known name in industrial and automotive circles in France for over 200 years. That familiar lion symbol first appeared in 1847 when the Peugeot family produced steel products and other innovations in Sochaux (which we’d guess rhymes with Peugeot).
Peugeot’s French sensibilities were infused with bold Italian designs starting in 1951, when it teamed up with car design firm Pininfarina of Turin, Italy. Auto historian Paolo Tumminelli of Car Design Europe wrote that Pininfarina’s first project on behalf of Peugeot, the 1955 403 saloon, was a global success, resulting in both high-volume models and niche vehicles: The coupés, convertibles and shooting brakes made by Pininfarina are a class of their own. The Peugeot style was thus able to steer clear of the typical French extravagance: Tasteful and intellectual, yet modest.
When Peugeot first entered the Philippine motoring scene in 2012, it was Eurobrands Distributor Inc (EDI, one of the business entities under the Columbian Group of Companies) which held the reins of distributorship and exclusive importation of the French marque.
Now, 10 years later, Peugeot Philippines goes on a reboot (or as they say in French, redemarrer) with Astara as the new Philippine distributor, marking the change with the launch of the new Peugeot 5008 SUV last Jan. 17.
Formerly known as Bergé Auto, Astara is one of the biggest automotive distributors in Europe and Latin America. Since beginning operations in 1979, Astara has been instrumental in selling over 3 million cars as a strategic partner of the world’s leading automotive groups.
In the Philippines, a homegrown executive is also among those leading the charge for a renewed Peugeot. Automotive veteran Maricar Parco, Brand Head of the new Peugeot Philippines, has been described as an “unwavering force in the Philippine automotive industry”. Peugeot Philippines stated: “In the male-dominated industry, she has risen from the ranks, holding marketing positions in various car brands before becoming the first female president of a luxury car distributor.”
Parco has been given the challenging role to lead, direct, and oversee the company’s marketing, sales, aftersales and dealer development departments. For her, making the Filipino motoring public say the Peugeot name right is the easiest part. Getting them to embrace the automotive French heritage amid the influx of many new foreign brands is another story. “Peugeot’s brand is more than its pronunciation. It has a rich history which dates back to 1810. In the Philippines, we look forward to introducing and re-introducing the brand to our customers. And yes, including a key to pronunciation,” she said.
The parts availability issue has become an industry-wide challenge during the pandemic. Under Astara’s leadership, how will Peugeot Philippines meet this challenge?
Maricar Parco: Most of Peugeot Philippines vehicles will be coming from Malaysia, which means improved availability of parts given the better geographic location in terms of distance.
As the highest-ranking Filipino executive in Peugeot Philippines, what would be your message to the motoring public?
MP: Peugeot vehicles are all about the driving experience. The technology and the comfort of a Peugeot is something you need to experience firsthand. Customers can look forward to a bigger and bolder Peugeot Philippines in terms of product offers and customer/aftersales services.
A lot of foreign car brands outside of the traditional sources have come in and have offered models that are built competitively with truly tempting prices. How will Peugeot Philippines compete?
MP: We are confident with Peugeot’s premium lineup of vehicles. Our vehicles are priced competitively.
Being the former president of another car brand how will this experience be an advantage for Peugeot Philippines?
MP: I am excited to be part of the new Peugeot Philippines brand. I am confident that we can show the discerning Filipino customers what the Peugeot brand can offer.
Where will the seven new dealerships and service centers planned for 2022 be situated?
MP: We will be announcing the new Peugeot dealerships soon. These will cover key areas in Metro Manila and key cities in Visayas and Mindanao as well.
Meanwhile, Peugeot Philippines recently released press information that said that currently, Astara offers a whole range of products and services focused on mobility, such as ownership, subscription, B2B and B2C, and new channels. These are supported, in turn, by a self-developed digital platform, which allows interaction with customers throughout the different steps in their journey.
Astara’s takeover is also said to mark its partnership with Stellantis, one of the leading global automakers where the Peugeot brand is housed. It also ushers in Astara’s expansion in Asia, which officially starts in the Philippines, as it has seen much potential in the market with the local automotive industry slowly recovering.
“Having just celebrated our 10th anniversary in the Philippines, we are energized to continue building our momentum in the country through our great vehicles and after-sales service offerings with Astara as our partner,” Parco said during the launch.
Peugeot Philippines plans to introduce more new vehicles upgraded with new technologies that promises what it describes a “carefree driving experience”, starting with the New Peugeot 5008 SUV.