Francisco Gaie. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Francisco Gaie. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Can a former London policeman arrest the slide of Peugeot in SA and succeed where French and SA brand specialists have failed?

Francisco Gaie is the new MD of Peugeot Citroën SA (PCSA), until recently a wholly owned subsidiary of the French parent company but now 51% controlled by a Japanese-controlled retail group, Trust Auto. PSA, the holding company of Peugeot and Citroën, retains 49%.

The local company’s title may include both French brands, but only Peugeots are sold in SA. Lousy sales forced Citroën’s withdrawal from the market at the end of last year. Peugeot’s performance has also been depressing — its 25 dealers sold 270 vehicles in the first five months of this year — but Gaie says there is no question of the brand disappearing. PCSA plans to launch a series of new cars and vans in coming months. Over the medium term he thinks monthly sales of 500 are feasible.

Rightly or wrongly, Peugeot has a reputation for mediocre after-sales service and availability of spare parts. That, and the pricing pressures that have been forced on all importers by a weak rand, has turned Peugeot into a shadow of its former self in SA.

Gaie (33), SA-born and educated, spent six years in the Metropolitan Police. After returning to SA, he joined Trust Auto in 2013. Before his new appointment, he was group chief operating officer. His predecessor as PCSA MD, Francis Harmie, has returned to France after six years in SA.

Gaie says Peugeot must a find a new way to promote itself to buyers. "The days when you could sit at the dealership waiting for a customer to come in with a bag of money are over," he says. Peugeot will conduct up to 80% of future marketing through digital channels, including social media. "There is still a place for TV and print," he says, "but for the younger audience we are targeting, digital is the obvious route."

In a perfect world, Gaie and his dealers would like to add the Opel car brand to their product portfolio. PSA has bought Opel from GM, which is disinvesting from SA at the end of 2017, so a new dealer network must be created. An official announcement was due this week but Gaie says PCSA won’t be involved. "Our agreement with PSA is specifically for Peugeot now, and Citroën if market circumstances change. Of course our dealers would love to add Opel to their mix, but we have no automatic rights to the brand."

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