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‘Full autonomy too expensive’ said PSA boss Tavares

Wednesday, 20th March, 2019 4:25pm

Carlos Tavares, the head of PSA Groupe and its multitude of car-making brands — Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Opel, and Vauxhall — has said that fully autonomous cars may never make a mass-market breakthrough, because the technology will be too expensive for retail buyers.

Tavares made his comments during a press conference where PSA revealed record car-making financial results, which included the first profit for more than two decades for Opel and Vauxhall.

Fully autonomous tech, which would allow cars to entirely drive themselves, will remain the preserve of “those who could anyway afford to employ a driver,” said Tavares. He said that PSA would continue to work on advanced driver aids, up to Level 3 (where the car can steer and brake itself on some roads but requires the driver to still pay attention and take control of the vehicle at regular intervals).

PSA’s total group car sales rose 6.8 per cent in 2018, turning more than €70 billion in profit, and saw its oft-troubled Opel and Vauxhall divisions return to profit (at a relatively impressive margin of more than four per cent) for the first time in 20 years.

Much of that improvement comes from the remarkable deal PSA struck with Opel’s former owner, General Motors, which held on to much of the company’s pension liabilities and historic debt when PSA took control of the twinned brands.

Tavares, who has been a vocal critic of the UK’s Brexit preparations, mollified his usual stance somewhat, saying that the UK-only Vauxhall brand could potentially benefit from leaving the EU, if local buyers are encouraged to ‘buy British’. The fate of Vauxhall’s UK-based factories continues to look dim in the face of a potential hard Brexit, though.

Elsewhere, Tavares committed Peugeot to a return to the US market (which it left in 1991) and to bringing the Citroen brand to the burgeoning Indian car market. He was also, effectively, launching the new Peugeot 208 small hatchback a few days early, thanks to images of the new hatchback leaking online the day before.

The new 208 is a sharp-looking car, with more than a hint of Audi in its styling, and it gets the high tech iCockpit layout from the new 508, with a small wheel, high-set digital dials, and a bit central touchscreen. Powerplants will range from a 1.2 litre three-cylinder petrol engine in 75hp, 110hp, and 130hp forms (with an optional eight-speed automatic gearbox) and a solitary 1.5 litre diesel option, which is unlikely to come to Ireland.

There will be a fully-electric 208, though, which borrows its 50kWh battery pack and 136hp electric motor from the recently-revealed DS 3 Crossback SUV. That should be good enough for a one-charge range of more than 300km (on the tougher WLTP economy and emissions test cycle) and it can be fast-charged to 80 per cent power in 30mins.

Much was made of the new 208’s visual references to the classic 1980s 205 GTI — a car still beloved of car enthusiasts, and increasingly classic car collectors — and while there will be a new 208 GTI in due course, there are tantalising rumours that the new 208 GTI might go all-electric, though, using a development of the high-performance electric tech previewed in the Peugeot 308 R Hybrid concept, back in 2015.

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