Peugeot says that its new Ford Mondeo rival, the 508, has been influenced as much by the needs of the booming Chinese market as by the requirements of the company's European heartland.
Sales double in China
Sales of traditional family saloons in China have more than doubled to 1.4 million a year since 2005, while in Europe they have slumped from 2.4 million a year to 1.7 million over the same period.
'We are still selling the same number of cars, but in different parts of the world,' says Vincent Rambeaud, head of Peugeot.
The 508 will be made and sold in China from next autumn, six months after French-built versions go on sale in Europe. The UK will launch saloon and estate (SW) models simultaneously in April, with prices likely to be roughly the same as those for the outgoing 407.
With China in mind, the 508 has grown by around 100mm over the 407. More than 90% of the increase is in the wheelbase to improve rear legroom – chauffeur-driven cars are hugely important in China – but boot space has also improved thanks to a longer rear overhang. The front overhang has been reduced to compensate so that the car is not too big or ill-proportioned.
It was initially believed that the 508 would replace both the 407 and the larger 607, but Xavier Peugeot, the family member responsible for marketing and communications, says this is not the case. 'We don't want to give up the upper segment and there will be something else connected to the 508 in a year,' he said.
Greener for Europe
European requirements are as much to the fore in the 508 as the demands of the Chinese market, however. Weight, aerodynamics and emissions are all better than those of the 407 in an effort to meet ever-stricter EU regulations, which are due to come into force in the 508's lifetime.
Despite the increase in size and equipment, the saloon is 35kg lighter than the equivalent 407, while the SW has been trimmed by 45kg. Both versions are also sleeker.
Rimbeaud says the average CO2 reduction is 40g/km compared with the 407, which will be a major boon for company car users who make up the majority of customers. At the top of the range a new 204bhp 2.2-litre turbodiesel replaces the 3.0-litre V6 diesel with no loss of performance, but CO2 emissions are cut by 73g/km.
'I will not say there will not ever be a V6 diesel in the 508, but it is not in our plans,' said Rambeaud.
Other engines are a 112bhp 1.6-litre diesel, including an e-HDi version with next-generation stop-start; 140bhp and 163bhp 2.0-litre diesels; and 120bhp and 156bhp 1.6-litre petrol units.
In autumn 2011, a diesel hybrid system – using the 163bhp HDi engine to drive the front wheels and a 37bhp electric motor to power the rears – will be added to the range. The CO2 target for this model is 99g/km.
The 508 is the first production car to feature Peugeot's new design language, which features a floating grille instead of the gaping mouth of the previous-generation cars.
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