The Peugeot 308 beat six other vehicles, including electric autos from BMW and Tesla Motors Inc., as Europe’s Car of the Year, providing a boost to the model’s French producer that’s struggling to return to profit.
The hatchback built by PSA Peugeot Citroen received the most votes from a panel of European business and trade journalists, Hakan Matson, president of the award jury, said at a press conference at the Geneva International Motor Show.
The 308 is part of Peugeot’s strategy of developing up-market vehicles to end losses following a six-year contraction in Europe’s auto market. The French company, unprofitable two years in a row, agreed last month to sell 14 percent stakes to Chinese partner Dongfeng Motor Corp. and the French state as part of a 5.27 billion-euro ($7.25 billion) fund-raising effort to overhaul the model line.
“We talked a lot about Peugeot in the past few months, but not enough about cars, so I’m happy now to talk about cars,” Maxime Picat, head of the Peugeot brand, said at the press conference. In reference to his nameplate’s logo, he added that “the lion is hungry” after waiting for its first award since 2002.
The market share of Peugeot and its sister brand Citroen in Europe narrowed to 10.9 percent last year from 11.7 percent in 2012, according to figures from the ACEA regional industry group. Last month, the group’s share of industry sales expanded 0.2 percentage point from a year earlier as its 6.9 percent gain in deliveries exceeded the market’s 5.2 percent growth.
“Today’s award is a good indication that PSA is at the strong point in their model cycle right now,” and “it is now up to PSA to translate this into increasing market share in Europe,” Erich Hauser, a London-based based analyst at International Strategy & Investment Group, said in an e-mail. “It feels like it’s now or never for Peugeot in Europe.”
Models shortlisted by the jury included Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s i3 electric city car, which placed second in the voting of 58 jury members from 22 European countries, and Tesla’s battery-powered Model S, which ranked third. Last year, Volkswagen AG’s Golf, which competes directly with the Peugeot 308, won the award.
Vehicles from Citroen, Volkswagen’s Skoda division, Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and Mazda Motor Corp. were also in the running.
Peugeot made some “radical” decisions on the car to improve efficiency and streamline the interior, including a smaller steering wheel to give a sportier feel, Picat said.
“Today is only a starting point,” said the Peugeot executive. “The award will help my sales and marketing teams” throughout Europe.