Later this week, PSA/Peugeot-Citroen will introduce the world's first diesel-electric car and will be taking on Renault SA's all-electric strategy. The strategy that these two French carmakers have taken up is in line with their goal to catch up with Toyota Motor Corp. At the Paris Auto Show, PSA (Europe's second-largest automaker) will launch a hybrid version of its 3008 crossover hatchback.
Meanwhile, Renault embarks on a strategy to make battery-powered cars a mass-market success. With the coming to light of strategies that PSA CEO Philippe Varin and Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn's have embraced, the industry divisions on what they expect green technology consumers will favor are becoming clearer.
However, these carmakers have quite a way to go before they could catch up with market leader Toyota, which launched the world's first hybrid (the gasoline-electric Prius) in 1997. According to Peugeot spokesman Jean-Marc Sarret, European prices for the 3008 hybrid will start somewhere above 30,000 euros ($40,400). In comparison, the basic gasoline version costs 21,600 euros.
PSA intends to offer this technology, which is dubbed as the “Hybrid4,” with three other large car models. Vincent Besson, Peugeot's product director, in an e-mail, said that it expects customers will agree to pay more for diesel hybrids since the price difference is “justified by their functionality and fuel efficiency.” Besson added that he thinks hybrids have a “big future” since they’re “much more versatile” than electric cars.
The 3008 features a diesel engine that powers the front wheels, coupled with an electric rear transmission. In purely electric mode, the car has a range of only 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) and its CO2 emissions level is at 99 grams of per kilometer. Toyota's Prius only has 89 grams of CO2 emissions per kilometer. PSA announced that rechargeable “plug-in” versions with bigger batteries and motors will come later in 2014.
In an interview, Toyota Europe Vice President Michel Gardel said that creating hybrid diesels, which have relatively small efficiency gains, results to added costs that many consumers will not be able to accept.
At the Paris Auto Show, Toyota is expected to display a prototype of a hybrid city-car planned for 2012. Gardel revealed that the hybrid version of Toyota's Auris compact, which debuted in Europe last July, has already sold 14,000 cars (accounting for its entire 2010 production). Last year, Toyota delivered more than half a million hybrids worldwide. Toyota is expected to add a plug-in Prius to its lineup in 2012.