I Really Thought You Said Sunday

Today I present a meta-review. I haven’t got around to having a chance to try to drive a 508 so instead I’ll report on two articles, one from Autocropley and the other from the Telegraph.

2019 Peugeot 508. Image: R Parazitas (the royalty’s in the post)

It goes without saying that I haven’t got an axe to grind for or against the 508. Like any car it deserves a fair judgement and something about these reviews suggests that whatever Peugeot does, the UK is a lost cause. If you read these reviews nothing would lead you to think that Peugeot had done anything except sell death-traps since 1975.

Never mind my opinions, let’s go to the articles and see what they said.

The Telegraph is up front with their prejudice: Hello both of you. That’s the two Telegraph readers who will, by my estimate, be stumping upwards of £25,000 for the all-new Peugeot 508 when it arrives in the UK this October. This test is for you, you crazy Peugeot-loving fools. Because selling large saloons in Britain is a dying art, particularly if you are not a German brand,” writes Andrew English. That’s called hyperbole and it’s very Clarkson. English here isn’t telling us about the car but about how he sees the car market.

Over at Autocropley Mr Matt Prior begins with some free-association and a reference to The Fast Show in his bid to grab our attention: ” They used to be a really big deal, cars such as the Peugeot 508 and its sort — the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia, Renault Laguna. You know the type: big D-segment saloons and wagons, doyennes of company car fleets, discounted and flogged out to the sales reps. Nostalgic for those days? Suit jacket in the back window? Sales samples in the boot? Thirty-thousand motorway miles a year? Jumpers for goalposts?”  The implication here is that saloons are by their nature yesterday though they are no less relevant than ball point pens are.

Back to the Telegraph with a remarkably wrong summary of the 508’s predecessors: “Peugeot’s best big saloon was the elegant Pininfarina-designed 505, which it stopped selling in 1992. It was the Lion’s last rear-wheel-drive car; indestructible and fine-riding, it was built in Sochaux on the French border with Switzerland. Its successor, the front-wheel-drive 405, wasn’t a bad car, but got successively less good through the 406 and 407 revamps, so by 2011 when the previous version of 508 appeared, we were heartily sick of the same old, same old.”

I can only call that inaccurate because the 405 wasn’t just a “not bad car” but a hit for Peugeot. And the 406 followed a similar path **(as we know here at DTW I am sure). In the end the 508 actually managed to do reasonably well in a declining market and as these reviews show, was quite good. TopClarkson asserted that only the badge stopped UK buyers buying the 508 which amounts, by the way, to TC telling readers what to think about the car as well.

2018 Peugeot 508: ANE

Autocropley does some more scene setting and produces a statistic: “They love a boring big saloon in China, and even though we’ve gone off them in Europe, people still buy 1.5 million of them a year here.” That’s one million fewer of them in comparison with 1976. Also, Autcropley tells us saloons are boring. You could quibble and say it’s only claiming China likes big, boring saloons but it’s hard not to read it as saloon cars being per definition boring.

The Telegraph is on to something positive here, with its estimation of the smaller size. “It just feels as though they’ve had some fun here and with its slightly smaller size, the proportions are more manageable than some rivals.” That’s quite astute on PSA’s part. The Insignia and Mondeo are like aircraft carriers, nice and all as they are.

And the car is 70 kg lighter than the outgoing one too while it still retains the multi-link rear suspension. So, having told us no-one will buy the car, the Telegraph reveals it’s a decent effort. The boot is as easy to load as a Saab 900, they say. Since it’s the Telegraph writing here, this must mean the pre-GM Saab 900. The ‘graph likes the cabin too.

2017 Opel Insignia GS is too cheap: Opel.de

Autocropley’s article, like the Telegraph’s, spent a lot of time considering residuals and even mentioned spreadsheets. I can remember the Car review of the previous 508 also discussing residuals. And I notice the 3-series, A4 and C-Class are spared this kind of gynæcological intrusion.

Odd that.

This is how Autocropley explains the pricing: “While you can have any Mondeo, Superb or Insignia for less than £20,000, no 508 is less than £25,000 in the UK — it goes up to £37,000 — and Imparato thinks most will be bought in the top two trim levels. Given that, and the fact that more than two-thirds of them will still be bought by fleets, residuals will need to be solid. Which, possible though it might be, would be a something of a turn-up for a big French saloon, n’est-ce pas?” 

That’s almost half way to interesting but a less judgemental way to say this is to say Peugeot is providing more quality or equipment to justify its higher price. And yes, that is remarkable. The logic here is that in order to make more money, Peugeot is …. charging more for its cars. I wonder how this will go down in Merkenich and Russelsheim. Seemingly Peugeot have cottoned on to the idea that a high price can be a selling point.

The Telegraph concludes by suggesting the 508 might sell better (in the UK) than might be imagined. Three? “So you two buyers, wherever you are, have fun in your 508s, because it’s going to be a rare sight on UK roads – although it’ll be worth seeking out and that number could swell to make the 508 more of a success than anyone imagined.” 

Autocropley is more circumspect. Did they drive a different car? “The 508, then, isn’t stacked with reasons you should definitely go out to buy one. But, then, nor does it give you the remotest reason not to. I quite like it. You might not. That’s fine. They’re not going to try to force you, and I like that even more.”

This reminds me of Archie Vicar’s review of the 505 from all those years ago: “…. For every point there is a counterpoint, and for everything the 505 does quite well (and it does much) there is another car that does that one thing slightly better (or differently). What the 505 does well, it does so imperceptibly, and this particular quality is the essence of the car. Peugeot will still sell hundreds of thousands of examples of the 505 (and nobody will notice).”

After all that, we don’t get so much reviews of the car from Autocar or the Telegrpaph as a reviews of the marketing and guesses about the buyers’ expectations.

** That long term review of a used 406 is an eye-opener (if you don’t read DTW, that is): “The 406 has proven amazingly dependable, enjoyable to drive, comfortable and perfectly serviceable from day to day. With the exception of a set of new tyres and a couple of bulbs, it’s cost us nothing to run – while a newer car would have been haemorrhaging money daily as it depreciated.”

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

6 thoughts on “I Really Thought You Said Sunday”

  1. Every car coming after the (unmentioned….) 407 is a move in the right direction. That is why the 508 I is a good car, especially the more beautiful estate version. And the new 508 is a lot better than then its predecessor. My favourite new 508 now is the saloon -in this new fantastic dark blue.

    I don´t know if the 508 will be able to steal many customers from Audi or at least Volkswagen (i hope it will be able to), but i am very sure the new 508 is able to accelerate Renault´s decline in the market segments above the Megane. Peugeot is already selling more of the 5008 than Renault of the Talisman, the Koleos and the Espace together, a real desaster for the french number one !

    1. I am a bit sorry to hear about the Espace. After an uncertain feeling, I’ve decided it’s a stylish alternative to the usual suspects and is elegant in a modern way. The Talisman is not so bad as to deserve total burial – it’s very French though. I feel warmer towards Renault’s look now – it may very well be the best expression of high concep there is at the moment.

  2. I love Peugeot for having another go with the 508, and for having the audacity to pitch it at the Arteon and A5 Sportback rather than the Insignia and Mondeo. It’s at least as good looking as either of the VW Group pair and dares to be a bit different. The estate in particular is desirable and surely has a chance of being a slow burn sleeper. Two things stand in its way commercially: the small wheel/ high mounted IP part of the I-cockpit (it’s a bit wierd and will turn people off, guaranteed), and the price of the base car. The latter is purely psychological as it will deter people from entering the ‘funnel’ of prospects. No matter what the actual quality and equipment, the (UK) public will simply expect an entry level Pug to be stripped of soft feel plastics and air con. And so, they will be brainlessly repelled, not even giving it a thought, and so will not get past the front page of the website when they read ‘from £25,000’.

    1. On the other hand a 20K base price is a bit desperate “late on Friday night”, isn’t it? Ford and Opel have got stuck in a low/no margin rut. Peugeot are trying to re-set and conceivably customers have forgotten the 407 already. I don’t think Peugeot can lose by demanding a higher price. The car had better fulfil the promise.
      Did you see the 406 long term test? That is a late result – Peugeot ought to look into making the 406 “iconic” as M-B does with the W-123.

    2. The ‘I Cockpit’ thing certainly puts me off.

      Other than sports cars, steering wheels should be large of diameter and thin of rim… the further they get from this ideal, the worse they are.

      Everything else about the 508 looks like a night and day improvement over its predecessor.

      And residuals do matter in this conversation – for most buyers, it’s the monthly payment that matters. This is why you see so many 3 series and C class cars, not just snobbery… a Mercedes will cost you less than a Peugeot, regardless of what the showroom sticker price might say.

  3. I don’t know if it’s the heat or a lack of air due to hay fever, but given the choices at this very moment, I’d certainly choose the 508 over anything German on looks alone. Having seen but two Arteon’s in the metal, one white and parked, t’uther black and at speed, the Peugeot ads pictures make this car look far more beguiling and interesting. And with my local dealer a mere stones throw from home, I will be enquiring come launch time.

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