Europe’s Best-Selling Car We Can’t Have in the U.S.
While we have differences, one would think that the best-selling car in Europe would also be a strong seller here, right? But as you know, what gets made across the pond doesn’t always wind up here. Such is the case with Peugeot, and its best-selling 208 hatchback. With its parent company Stellantis making cars here, it seems odd that we don’t have a rebadged version of the 208 here already.
Wait, wasn’t the VW Golf the best-selling car forever?
Until the 208 snatched its throne, the VW Golf was Europe’s best-selling car for 16 years running. Europe loves its national brands and loves hatchbacks. So even though the Golf was bumped, another national brand’s hatch replaced it.
The Peugeot 208 sold 206,816 units in 2022 to the Golf’s 177,203. And while the 208 increased sales by 5%, the Golf dropped sales by 14%. In fact, the Golf moved down a few notches to the fifth spot on the popularity parade list.
What did the Peugeot 208 do right?
JATO analysts told Jalopnik, “The success of the Golf is owed to the fact that it was able to meet the needs of a wide range of consumers without leading in any given parameter. But times change, and today consumer priorities are quite different from some years ago.”
What the analyst may have missed is that the supply chain crisis might have had something to do with it, too. It has caused some brands to rise with others falling, not unlike what we see with the Golf/208 rivalry. But it also has to do with pricing.
The 208 is an inexpensive small hatchback. Part of its popularity has to do with its price. Over the years, the Golf has been marketed as a slightly more upscale hatch.
What’s so special about the 208?
And with that, its price also moved up a few notches. But the 208 has maintained its entry-level buy-in. So more affordability means more sales in this segment.
So what is so special about the Peugeot 208? It has a quirky-cool look. The headlight tears or fangs, depending on how you see them, are a little goofy, and seem unnecessary. But we can live with them.
The organic design combined with the emphasis on the wheel openings gives it a chunky, planted look. Small hatchbacks tend to be a little more flamboyant, but the 208 has a certain sophistication to its design.
Why isn’t the Peugeot sold in the U.S.?
It offers both a gas-powered version and an EV. It has 134 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque. Or, an inline three-cylinder 1.2-liter gas engine with 73 hp and 87 lb-ft of torque. Not exactly a torque monster. There are also turbodiesel engines, a Euro thing we will probably never see here.
Stellantis, the overlord of Dodge, Chrysler, Ram, and Jeep, also has Peugeot in its portfolio. And we are waiting to see what its Peugeot, Citroen, and Opel models get rebadged as a Chrysler or Dodge. So far, there has been no crossover.
But the Toyota Corolla sells around 300,000 consistently, while the Nissan Sentra has seen sales of well over 200,000 in most years. So the 208 segment is a goldmine in the U.S. We expect a version of the 208 EV will eventually be available here.