The PSA Group, which comprises the Peugeot, Citroën and DS brands, has revealed plans for an improved and expanded online car-buying system as part of a move towards digitisation and away from traditional car dealerships.
Announcing a new, highly digitised global offer under its Push to Pass mid-term business plan, PSA Group chairman Carlos Tavares said the system would allow buyers to choose and purchase cars online, enable them to sell used cars “with confidence”, easily choose car parts or repairers and reserve a car, scooter or van as a hire vehicle when required.
The plan includes a scheme to provide for the aftermarket needs of any car on the road - and PSA estimates the world fleet currently runs to 800 million cars.
Talking online purchase, PSA chief of e-sales Morgan Lecoupeur said that across Europe, visits to dealerships had recently declined by 40% and that one in three buyers was now happy to complete a car deal online. Digital sales, on the other hand, have increased 40% in the UK, Lecoupeur said. PSA’s pricing expert, Marc Lechantre, established the goal of the new digital strategy: “Our idea is for the customer to buy or sell a car with complete security and confidence.”
The PSA Group, which also owns Vauxhall and Opel, predicts that car sharing is set to increase 4.5-fold, from 8 to 36 million users, over 10 years from 2015 to 2020. PSA's Free2Move car-sharing scheme already has 400,000 cars on the road in six countries including the UK, and is planned to have complete Europe-wide coverage by the end of next year.
The group has also launched retail spaces with digital showrooms as part of its digitisation plans. Named Experience Stores, the sites will offer potential customers a taste of the brands before giving them the opportunity to make a purchase online in the store, or at home. These, like similar efforts from the likes of Hyundai and Jaguar Land Rover, will be staffed by ‘brand ambassadors’ – product experts, in other words – instead of salespeople.
In a speech given to conclude the event, PSA boss Carlos Tavares criticised factions working to threaten freedom of mobility: "I am very concerned as a European citizen that on an individual basis, freedom of mobility may be under attack. I would like our company to be the company to offer solutions. Constraints on mobility are increasing day by day.
We believe that freedom of mobility is a fundamental right of humanity; I believe that FOM is a fundamental right of democracy. Any Government that in one point in time would attack freedom of mobility, will at one point in time face serious problems, and this is something that we could foresee.
We don’t think any more about cars. We think about mobility. We recognise that the needs of our customers are evolving. PSA needs two legs - to be a cutting edge car maker on one side and mobility provider on the other."
Tavares also targeted the risk of rising car prices through increased technology density per car as a risk to mobility: "Imagine someone tells you you need an autonomous car, to be safe. Maybe you won’t be able to afford it. I’m from a generation that democratised mobility for 30 years. ABS, for example, started at the high end and trickled down. I would like to avoid a situation where we go backwards. I want to avoid a situation when only the richest people can afford individual mobility."