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13 Mar 18

Gilles Le Borgne, PSA Group: “We’re not aiming to be pioneering in CASE”

Thanks to the recently acquired Opel/Vauxhall twins, PSA Group now has no less than five brands in portfolio. Gilles Le Borgne, the Group's Executive Vice President Quality and Engineering, explains how it plans to use that variety to its advantage, why its hybrid strategy now favours petrol, and why CASE is not a priority for the Group.

Mercedes-Benz CEO Dieter Zetsche recently announced they would start developing diesel-hybrid technology again. PSA stopped doing that. What's your take on this?
“First off, it's important to define the level of hybridisation, which defined by the quantity of energy you have on board. You start with mild hybrids, which is low energy, up to 1 kilowatt hour (kwh) but most of the time it is 0.5 kWh. Then you have the full hybrid, as our diesel engine was, and very close to what Toyota is doing with petrol. Here, the energy level is around 1 kWh. Then you have the plug-in hybrid, between 9 and 13 kWh. And then you have battery-electric vehicles, with 35 to 100 kWh”.

“That's a bird's eye view of the technology. What we did with what we called 'HYbrid4' was a full hybrid - around 1 kWh. We chose diesel because it was very CO2-efficient, and the electric motor helped the diesel engine to operate in the most efficient way possible. The so-called 'specific consumption' of the diesel engine was very low, thanks to the hybridisation, even though it remained mainly an internal-combustion engine car”.

“In the spring of 2019, we'll introduce a plug-in hybrid with a lot more energy: around 10 kWh. Depending on the specific model, you'll be able to drive in electric mode for up to 50 or 60 km. In this context, it makes more sense to choose a petrol engine. You have the best of both worlds: pure electric for commuting, and the advantage of an ICE for longer ranges”.

“Another reason for the switch to petrol is that petrol is very popular in China. We chose for petrol in our PHEVs in order to comply with China's New Electric Vehicle regulations”.

Mild hybrids are a fairly easy way to lower CO2 emissions. Why then do manufacturers use so relatively few of them?
“The quick and dirty solution is to add a belt alternator on the drivetrain belt, and that is not a particularly efficient method. So, we decided to skip this technology for the 2020-2021 period. We are working on a more efficient device for the 2021-2025 period, with an electric motor that will be very close to the wheels, avoiding a lot of the energy loss in the current setup”.

There are five vehicle brands within the PSA Group – Citroën, Peugeot and DS as before, and more recently, Opel and Vauxhall. In terms of quality, how are you going to position those various brands?
“It's very simple – and it's already on the market. It's called the Global C-SUV Programme. Let me give you an example. We launched the Peugeot 3008, the Car of the Year of 2017, and the 5008. Then, we launched the DS 7 Crossback, and following that the Grandland X from Opel. And now we're launching the Citroën C5 Aircross – already on the market in China”.

“From an end consumer point of view, those are all very unique car models. They won't be able to tell that they have around 75% common parts between them. Thanks to our know-how, we were able to develop very distinct cars that meet the DNA of each of our brands”.

“We are doing exactly the same thing for future models. The new Corsa will be a sister car for the Peugeot 208, which will be a sister car of the DS. Of course, the attributes will be different, but the level of commonalities will be very high, to increase efficiency. Thanks to the Opel volume – an extra 1.2 million cars – we can increase our own purchasing power. And at the same time, we can produce fresh models for each brand. The best proof of are the models in the C-SUV Programme that are already on the road”.

With regard to Opel and Vauxhall – how will you merge their product quality with that of the PSA Group's other brands?
“As I explained, we are going to switch the Opel cars to our PSA technology – first the Corsa, then the Mokka X, the Astra and then later on the Insignia. Of course, each brand will have its own styling. But product quality-wise, we won't differentiate between the brands – they will all be top quality, as is also the stated ambition of our Push to Pass strategic plan”.

CASE – short for Connected, Autonomous, Self-drive and Electric – is on many manufacturers' minds. How is PSA preparing to lead in those fields?
“I don't know if it's a good idea to be the trailblazer in those fields. For example, we are in a good place thanks to the launch of the DS 7. It offers Level-2 autonomous driving, which is very efficient. But as soon as you talk about Level-3 or Level-4 features, the cost-effectiveness is much harder to achieve. I think we're in a good place right now, but I don't think we'll be a front runner, compared to the German brands”.

Copyright: Groupe PSA

Authored by: Steven Schoefs