Three months ago this column warned of the ‘miracle’ promoted by Stellantis in sales of the main models of the Peugeot and citron, brands embraced by the creation of the automobile giant.
The expedient for this change in license plates is the old and well-known direct sales scheme, which Fiat, Stellantis’ main brand, has been practicing for many years. In short, this vehicle marketing modality involves the use of the CNPJ, the legal entity registration, to carry out the acquisition contract.
There are several tax benefits for companies whose original intention is to use vehicles as utility vehicles or with corporate functions, but the generous Brazilian legislation always opens up loopholes for these rules to be used in less conventional ways.
Stellantis saw this as a lode and has exploited it quite disproportionately to other brands. Previously it was more common for these license plates to involve simpler models, but today SUVs like the Renegade and Compass have the most sales for ‘PJs’.
Of course it wouldn’t be different with models 208 and 2008, from Peugeot, and C4 Cactus, from Citroën. The three, although with an interesting and modern proposal, never fell in the taste of the Brazilian consumer, hardened by the neglect of French brands in their period of success, in the early 2000s.
But in the hands of Stellantis, the impression is that there was only a ‘polish’ in the look for them to be ‘discovered’ by the public. The updated survey of AUTO, however, shows that the three cars continue to slide in retail, where deals are closed with “individuals”.
The 208 hatchback, now produced in Argentina, sold 475 units in May at retail, but last month there were only 196 cars. The brother SUV 2008 returned to a plateau level similar to the pre-Stellantis phase, with 158 customers closing deals for it in June. In August, only 73 people showed up at Peugeot stores to buy it.
The C4 Cactus, the only Citroën car for sale in Brazil at the moment, has even shown steady growth in retail, but it barely surpasses 400 units.
The scenario in direct sales, on the other hand, followed up until July. The 2008 hit 871 units, the 208 at 1,385 and the C4 Cactus at 1,862 units. Citroën’s SUV and Peugeot’s compact hatch even were the 5th and 7th best-selling vehicles in wholesale that month, in a list that brought no less than eight Stellantis models in the top positions.
All three, however, plummeted in August, completely disproportionate to what was seen in retail. The hatch 208 sold 1,024 units, the 2008, 582 cars, and the Cactus, 1,291 vehicles.
What could cause such instant disinterest in all three of them at the same time? One of the hypotheses would be the stoppage of production, affected by the lack of components.
The Porto Real factory, for example, had stopped for just three days until July, while the much larger Betim had its assembly lines suspended for a week. So it seems very little time to cause such a significant shortage.
If it were good everyone would do
The fact is that this is not normal behavior, whether it is up or down. The automobile market has been known for the ‘makeup’ in sales for a long time.
Almost two decades ago, the sales reference was vehicle sales to dealerships, but some brands began to anticipate these transfers to inflate numbers, leading the market to consider only license plates as reliable data.
Not even that was enough, as some of the automakers started to license their cars at the stores to improve their numbers, even if the vehicles had no buyers.
Whatever makes Stellantis so fond of the direct sales market doesn’t sound like a natural thing to do. The right thing would be that the products didn’t need ‘shortcuts’ to sell well.
As shown by some more established manufacturers with the public, this artifice is not worth the risk. After all, if it were something positive, everyone would have joined, including Peugeot and Citroën before joining the FCA.