If and When French Cars Return to America, Thank Canada

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Citroen DS, Image: Wikimedia Commons

While French automaker PSA Group’s newly created North American headquarters resides in the warm, sunny South (Atlanta, to be exact), PSA North America CEO Larry Dominique’s mind often turns to that frosty land to the north.

That’s where PSA, maker of Citroën, Peugeot, and DS vehicles, feels it can gain a firm foothold once it begins shipping its vehicles to North America. A decade-long re-entry plan is already underway, but French car aficionados must first make do with the company’s mobility services. Real, actual cars will follow, and Dominique sees Eastern Canada as key part of the company’s plan.

Quebec separatists haven’t managed to sever their province from the rest of the country, despite several attempts, but they can at least look forward to thumbing their noses at the federal government through the purchase of a bonafide French car.

If you weren’t already aware, Quebec, Canada’s second most populous province, is pretty French, and Dominique feels his company’s cars could go over like hot poutine and a nicely chilled bottle of Fin du Monde. Neighboring Ontario and New Brunswick also harbor large francophone populations.

“Canada to us is a very important market,” Dominique said during an Automotive News roundtable in Detroit. It’s not just the assumed acceptance from French-speaking citizens that enamours Dominique with the Canadian market. The country recently dropped its 9.5 percent tariff on vehicles built in European Union nations, and its franchise-protection laws aren’t as robust as those in the United States.

Currently, the U.S. imposes a 2.5 percent tariff on European-built cars, but President Trump has threatened to even the playing field. (Europe imposes a 10 percent tariff of U.S. vehicles.)

“From a distribution perspective, it’s more flexible than the United States,” the CEO said.

Tariff threats aside, PSA is determined to return to North America, though the cost of building a dealer network from scratch doesn’t appeal to the automaker. It would prefer going a more modern route, similar to Tesla, though that could see it run afoul of protectionist laws in various states. In the interest of cost savings, Dominique said the automaker may partner with other companies for some parts of the business.

[Image: Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)]