Peugeot is taking another look at the low-emission vehicle marketplace after a disappointing sales performance for both its Ion electric vehicle and the trio of diesel-hybrid models.

“We’re having a reset moment on diesel hybrid and EVs; in the next three or four years, how can we take these vehicles to market?” said former fleet and LCV boss Phil Robson, who recently moved to a new role at Peugeot’s Paris headquarters. “Diesel hybrid hasn’t gone as well as we’d hoped,” Robson admitted, but said it is selling better across Europe, and blamed the high list price in the UK. 

“Convincing leasing companies to be brave was a mountain too far for us,” he continued. “Maybe with these cars the policy will be zero discount but capital cost as low as can be.”

Regarding electric vehicles in particular, Robson said he had learned that showing an interest doesn’t necessarily mean customers will be looking to acquire them.

“Don’t translate people wanting to demonstrate the vehicle into people wanting to buy them. But people are interested and it opens doors to people we haven’t talked to before,” he said.

Robson also revealed Peugeot had conducted a test when sales of the Ion EV didn’t go as well as the firm had hoped.

“We got the green light to conduct almost an experiment as to what price a retail buyer will come in, and it turned out to be around £13,000 after the [£5000] Government grant,” he said. “That is probably too cheap, but £13,000-£15,000 is the pinch point that will convince someone to take an EV on rational reasons.”

“With the Ion we had a product ready for the market, and all the manufacturers and Government overestimated the growth of the electric vehicle market,” agreed Peugeot UK boss Tim Zimmerman.

He predicted that the only way that electric vehicles will take off in the UK is if one of three things happens: the battery technology improves, Government changes the way EVs are treated and offers incentives such as being eligible to drive in bus lanes or increased proliferation of quick-charge points, or “mobility solutions evolve” and people in cities look on EVs “as more like public transport – they don’t need to buy one, just get in when it’s needed”.

“I still think that in the foreseeable future traditional petrol and diesel engines will be the majority of the market so we’ve got to continue to work to make these engines more efficient, so your average family that buys one or maybe two cars can buy one that’s at the forefront of thermal technology,” Zimmerman concluded.