Monday, October 05, 2020

2nd-generation Peugeot 208 made in Argentina: only one engine option doesn't match regional needs and preferences

Released with a delay after its European counterpart, the Mercosur-bound version of the 2nd-generation Peugeot switched the manufacturing base from Brazil to Argentina, relying only on the old EC5 engine in an ethanol-capable flexfuel trim for the Brazilian market while other countries receive it tuned to use only gasoline. Besides the absence of a turbodiesel engine, which used to be much sought after even on compact cars in Argentina, it's also noticeable the fitment of an automatic transmission as standard and only a naturally-aspirated engine with greater displacement than its European counterparts which resort to the smaller EB2 engine available as a naturally-aspirated with manual transmission and turbocharged versions also including the option for an automatic transmission. Considering both the brand perception of Argentinians who don't really see Peugeot as somewhat premium, while in Brazil it tries to recover a prestige it used to get when imported cars flooded the local market in the early '90s attempting to take over the middle and upper-class customers, it would actually make some sense to retain the same EB2 of its European counterpart.

While the higher purchase cost of a turbodiesel inherent to the increasingly sophisticated aftertreatment becomes troublesome for a country with a severely troubled economy as Argentina is at the moment, a strong market for natural gas conversions is more favorable to the EC5 and would also be to the basic naturally-aspirated EB2 due to the usage of port-injection, instead of the direct injection which is fitted to the turbocharged variants of the smaller engine. And since the 1.2L EB2 is slotted right above a more favorable displacement class up to 1.0L for taxation purposes in Brazil, just like the 1.6L EC5 does, it could be at a first glance rendered less competitive against the direct-injection turbocharged flexfuel 1.0L engine offerings from Chevrolet, Volkswagen and Hyundai and unlikely to set a foothold as the higher manufacturing cost of a downsized engine compared to a more traditional counterpart is not so easily amortized through a tax break, even though the Mercosur agreement gives Argentinian-made cars a different tax break in Brazil. It's also worth noticing similar models from other manufacturers which are available in Brazil in 1.0L naturally-aspirated or turbocharged and larger-displacement naturally-aspirated versions only go to Argentina with the biggest engine for the very same reason, as such more favorable taxation scheme is absent there.

While a naturally-aspirated trim of the EB2 could be more valued by Argentinian customers as long as the purchase cost remained lower and a manual transmission would be retained, and some turbocharged variants would be more appreciated in Brazil due to the technology and "sportiness" appeal with a good marketing perspective for the availability of both manual and automatic transmission options, retaining the EC5 and automatic-only becomes an objectionable one-size-fits-all approach. The total absence of turbodiesel options, which could at a first moment sound quite predictable as it's not allowed for cars in Brazil and nowadays seems too expensive for a small car in Argentina, can also be counted as another mistake somehow. Overlooking all the complexity of South American car markets as a whole, ignoring specific aspects of each country in the region and how to better address such conditions, often leads to a poor decision-making which may have a troublesome reflex on the actual marketing perspectives for an otherwise good product, and right now it seems to be what happens to the 2nd-generation Peugeot 208 even though it's too soon to be sure about it failing or receiving a better-adjusted selection of engines.

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