Back before Peugeot last left the American market in the early ‘90s, they made one last-ditch effort to get buyers into their 505 STX sedan. Though the car was good, the competition was stiff, so Peugeot called in some backup.
What competition are we talking about? This was the era of Mercedes’s dominance. The mighty W124 E-Class was what Peugeot was gunning for with this car. BMW’s E34 5 Series was another opponent on the market too, and both of these cars were newer and more powerful than Peugeot’s V6-powered sedan.
Now, it’s not like the 505 STX was a bad car. A 1987 Road & Track review called it “the best car Peugeot has ever sent to the US.” And it probably was. According to the review, the seats were comfortable, the PRV-derived V6 was properly upgraded, and the handling was impressive. But that same review also warned that Peugeot was going to need to overcome a massive PR battle. The model was old by the late-80s, and the brand’s small dealer network and past reputation for less-than-rock-solid reliability weren’t going to do the car any favors, no matter how good the reviews were.
So to try and even the playing field, Peugeot tried to bring in some reinforcements. Aside from Peugeot’s own 205 T16 rally car, the brand pulled in some other high-speed engineering icons of French origin: The Concorde and the TGV.
Ultimately, ads like these weren’t enough to bring American buyers into what Peugeot dealers remained in 1987. I guess decades-old tech wasn’t going to excite Americans all that much, be it in supersonic plane, high-speed train, or French sports sedan-form. The other two ads, emphasizing the car’s comfort and performance, didn’t make a dent either. Nothing else felt like a Peugeot, but no one seemed to want that over what the Germans had on offer.
Sure enough, not long after these ads aired Peugeot left the American market. The challenges of competing with not just their German competition but the Japanese as well were too much for the company.
These days, Peugeot is mulling a return to America, possibly bolstered by the dealer network it could gain access to when it merges with Fiat Chrysler. The company doesn’t make the 505 anymore, but its descendant, the 508, is awfully impressive. I’m not sure the 508 would steal any more E-Class and 5-Series buyers away from Mercedes and BMW, but the sedan market is different these days. Maybe there are buyers that are looking for something that nothing else feels like.