More so than its central mystery or its musings on the nature of memories and humanity, I love Blade Runner for its world-building—even if that world is decidedly not a very nice place. The sci-fi classic is back with Blade Runner 2049 and I’m not spoiling anything by telling you that world is even worse now. More pollution, more rampant poverty, more legalized slavery. But in this vision of the future, cars are still around, and one very unlikely brand is the film’s headliner.
I saw Blade Runner 2049 yesterday, and beyond telling you I’m a huge fan of the original and that I liked this sequel a lot, I’ll avoid any spoilers for the sake of this piece. The experience is best if you don’t know very much going in.
One surprise I was definitely not expecting was that the skycar, or Spinner if we’re using the name from the original film, piloted by Ryan Gosling’s Detective K is a Peugeot.
Yes, a Peugeot, from France. Who the hell saw that coming?
It’s such an odd choice, given that this is an American movie once again set in America, this time Los Angeles in 2049. Peugeots haven’t been sold in this country since 1991, and other French brands Renault and Citroën aren’t available here either. French cars, with their quirky styling, technology and mixed reliability, just never got traction with American buyers the way the sturdy and fast German cars did.
Granted, big-budget blockbuster movies these days are meant to be international affairs. China, where Peugeot is sold, is just as important for movie revenue as the U.S. and even more important for cars sold. I don’t doubt the decision was made to target other markets more than ours.
It’s just unusual to see Detective K flying around Los Angeles in a future-car from a brand that has exactly zero presence in the minds of any Americans except beleaguered 504 diesel wagon owners.
The Peugeot product placement actually shown in a pretty subtle way, too. Aside from a few brief glimpses of the dashboard or the lettering on the body itself, I bet most moviegoers won’t even notice it. There’s weirdly very little fanfare out there around the Peugeot Spinner either; no dedicated website, no official pics from Peugeot, not even a mention on the automaker’s page, as far as I could tell.
Of course, Blade Runner at its heart is a vision of the future rooted in the 1980s, and aside from a few modern updates like allusions to Siri and Amazon Alexa, Blade Runner 2049 does little to change that. There are still massive neon billboards for dead brands like Atari and Pan Am in this take on 2049, so it kind of makes sense in this world that Peugeot somehow never left the U.S.
It should also be noted that PSA Peugeot Citroën is reportedly attempting a comeback in the U.S. soon, starting with an unconventional approach to ride-sharing and mobility in certain market rather than outright direct car sales.
I say good. Hopefully that will adequately prepare them for our coming neon dystopia.