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Americans have long lusted after the forbidden fruits of the automotive markets: Vehicles offered elsewhere but not sold here in the United States. When Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, former parent to Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge, and others, joined forces with PSA (Peugeot and others), there was hope that Americans could get hold of some quirky French cars as part of the deal. That hasn’t happened, at least not yet. As it turns out, Europeans get just as many boring crossovers as we do, though Peugeot thinks it has a solution with the new 408, an aerodynamic compact crossover with style for days. While we seriously doubt a rebadged 408 would ever show up on our shores, it’s easy to imagine how a vehicle looking something like this on the same electrified platform could spawn a viable product for the American market. Squint a bit and “new electric Dodge Intrepid” comes to mind.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that France would come out with a new vehicle that seems well-matched to the American market. Utility vehicles made up 46% of new vehicle sales in France in May, matching the sales numbers of sedans in the country. Peugeot’s banking on the fact that many people want the space and usability of a compact SUV but tire of the styling and ubiquity of the vehicle type. The fastback shape provides a more dramatic design look without completely sacrificing the characteristics that make SUVs so popular.
Peugeot offers a traditional SUV in the 3008, but the 408 is sleeker and more aerodynamic. The automaker says that the 408 “offers a feline stance and unique allure, engineering excellence focused on efficiency and intelligent electrification, as well as the emotions provided by cutting-edge technologies dedicated to driving pleasure and instinctive use.”
Two plug-in hybrid powertrains will be offered first, producing 180 and 225 horsepower. A standard gas model will also be available with a 130-horsepower engine. All variants get an eight-speed gearbox, and Peugeot says an electric model will come later. No Stellantis brand in the United States currently offers a purely electric vehicle.
Peugeot will build the 408 at its plant in Mulhouse, France, for the European market. The vehicle will go on sale early in 2023 and will later become available in China.