When it comes to cultural differences, Americans and Europeans have very different tastes. We have distinctly different preferences in food, music, clothing, and humor. It stands to reason that we would also have different preferences for automobiles. As Peugeot learned in the 1980s, this is exactly the case.
Peugeot is a large and well-known car manufacturer in France. In 1987, they launched a brand-new car called the 405. This mid-size family sedan offered a lot of standard features at a reasonable price. It had a body designed by Pininfarina and was available with an optional 150HP engine. This sporty, front-wheel drive sedan was named European Car of the Year in 1988. Spurred on by a positive reception at home, Peugeot decided to bring the 405 sedan over to the United States market.
Starting in 1989, the Peugeot 405 went on sale in North America. Buyers could choose from three trim levels: the base model DL, the nicely-equipped S, or the premium Mi16. The DL and the S sedan shared a 1.9L 8V SOHC cam engine producing 110 horsepower, while the Mi16 had a 1.9L 16V DOHC engine producing 150 horsepower.
All models came standard with 4-wheel disc brakes, fully independent suspension, air conditioning, tilt steering, power door locks, and a rear-window defroster. The S model added power windows, an AM/FM cassette stereo with power antenna, and a sunroof. The top-of-the-line Mi16 model had a rear spoiler and 40 additional horsepower. The cars came with a 5-speed manual gearbox with an automatic transmission available as an option. Pricing started at $14,500 for the DL, $17,700 for the S, and $20,700 for the Mi16.
Over in Europe, the Peugeot 405 was a big hit! They sold 500,000 of them by 1989 and over 1 million of them by 1990. Here in the U.S., it was a very different story. American buyers were not just ignoring the 405 sedan – they were ignoring Peugeot as a whole! The company’s sales had been declining rapidly throughout the 1980s, and unfortunately the introduction of the 405 was not the turnaround the company had hoped for.
Peugeot’s sales fell from 6,095 cars in 1989 to just 2,223 cars in 1991 – the same year they made the decision to withdrawal from the U.S. market entirely.
Production for these cars was pretty low – I believe fewer than 20,000 were sold in America between 1989 and 1991. That’s why it was such a surprise to see this one sitting in a junkyard in Phoenix, Arizona!
This red 405 DL sedan caught my eye at one of the many pull-a-part yards on Broadway Avenue. It appears to have taken a bad hit in the front end – possibly a tree or telephone pole. There was a sticker on the back bumper for “SoCalCitroen.com” as well as one in the window for the Citroen Car Club USA. I’m guessing it came out here from California at one point in time.
It’s too bad that this unique car is no longer on the road, and that American buyers never gave the 405 much of a chance. Although I’ve never driven one, it sounds like it would have been a pretty attractive contender back in its day. I wonder why more buyers didn’t go with the Peugeot?