The world has seen many car brands that have become iconic. Here in the States, we definitely cherish such classics. However, the truth is that almost every company has at least one or two respectable models that are worth looking into. And yet… some we have completely forgotten!
Recently we found out that Peugeot is coming back to the US after about 30 years of complete absence. But many people on this side of the ocean have not even heard of the company. I do not blame them though.
Nevertheless, since that is about to change, I figured it is time to introduce you to a fairly interesting model of theirs. I have even hinted at it in our article about some of the most interesting cars Corsia shipped in 2018. So here we go with Peugeot 205 GTi – the small beast that helped the brand dig itself out of a rut!
A bit of Peugeot’s history – It was all about wheels
It is no secret that we do not know much about Peugeot on this side of the ocean. Even when the automaker had a presence on this continent, the competition had it surrounded, outnumbered, and outsold. That said, the company’s story has quite the pull to it, with humble beginnings all the way back in 1810.
Of course, there were no cars that far back in time. Peugeot was then a small family company producing bicycles (and coffee mills, but that is unimportant). As you can see, their roots in the personal transportation industry go quite deep.
Their first “car” was a steam-powered tricycle in 1889. But by that time steam had already begun to go out of style. Seeing where the evolution will go, Peugeot then decided to work with Daimler (of later Mercedes-Benz fame) to create their own car with an internal combustion engine.
Sadly though, cars and bicycles were at odds with each other. Because of that family issues arose and the two sides of the company parted ways in 1896. Here begins the true odyssey of the French manufacturer.
The rise and struggles of a car manufacturer
Being among the first to offer cars in France, Peugeot quickly gained ground. By 1899 it held 25% of vehicle market share for the entire country. The company used its success to fund racecars, gathering more and more attention along the way.
Even though it faced quite the competition in the face of Mercedes and other companies, Peugeot managed to remain afloat. Its steady growth propelled it forward through the Great War, making it possible to come up with Peugeot 201 in 1929. As one can guess that is the great-great-grandfather of the 205 model, featured in this article.
Sadly though, it was not long until the Depression hit and sales plummeted. Although the company survived, it did not come out unscathed. The automaker had to come up with new model generations in hope of spiking up people’s interest once more.
But then World War II happened and everything ceased. Luckily, Peugeot was able to pick themselves up, slowly building back its presence. It took a while, but in 1958 the company began offering its vehicles in the United States.
Peugeot problems started when the company began its vast expansion. By 1978, it had acquired Citroën and the European division of Chrysler. However, instead of winning big time, the car manufacturer started draining resources. While this did not hurt Peugeot that much, the company stagnated. And as you may know, stagnation in business is a prerequisite for trouble. Luckily, one model came to the rescue!
Peugeot 205 – The right car at the right time
As I’ve mentioned we had the chance to handle the classic car shipping for Peugeot 205 GTi. I have to say that at first, the model did not impress me in the slightest. Nevertheless, I know that such cars usually have something to tell, so I started digging.
It turns out that the 205 model has quite a rich background indeed. When it came out it became an instant success. An affordable small car is exactly what Europe wanted. It was not without competition though!
Nissan Micra, Opel Corsa, Fiat Uno, and Ford Fiesta also wanted a piece of that pie. However, it was Peugeot that offered the best deal.
The 205 was incredibly versatile, cheap, easy to maintain and extremely sturdy. With great efficiency and reliability, it won the hearts of many. Quite a lot of units remain operational even to this day. And although Fiat Uno stole its Car of the Year award, it was Peugeot 205 that ultimately won the battle for the best small car in Europe.
The GTi model we transported is the high-performance version of the vehicle. This iteration itself has become one of the most popular.
Today, it continues to serve as a benchmark for good performance out of a small car. It ultimately became one of the most successful model variations for the entire company. But even so, it never really made it to the US…
Peugeot and the troublesome US market
Europeans and Americans may seem quite alike, yet when it comes to cars, we are very different. People on the Old Continent enjoy smaller vehicles with good efficiency. They do not care all that much about giant trucks. You can see that reflected even in the roads they build. For example, Germany is famed with one of the best infrastructures on the planet, but their roads hardly match the size of those in the States.
Here we just love big cars. Give us an SUV or a pickup and we will be perfectly content. The foreign manufacturers who understood that on time managed to survive here. Peugeot did not.
The European success of the 205 model was not mirrored here. Small cars do have a niche, but not one large enough to feed a whole branch of a company. So by the beginning of the ’90s, Peugeot was virtually forced to pull out of the US market altogether.
The story does not end here though. As I have already told you, Peugeot is planning a return by 2026. This is not “soon” per se, but it shows commitment. Until then you can only enjoy the marque by investing in one of their classic models. Speaking of which…
A note on soon-to-be classic vehicles
Some of you may have noticed that the 205 model does not really have the classic appeal you would expect from it. It sits on the margins of looking too new to be vintage, yet too old to be modern. This puts it in a rather interesting situation. And it is not alone in that!
I believe we are going to hit an awkward moment soon. The end of the ’90s and the beginning of the 2000s were marked by somewhat mediocre vehicle designs. The cars looked boxy, unrefined, and quite odd. Why does this matter? Because in the years to come these vehicles are going to enter the classics territory.
We are now used to vintage cars having rounded aesthetics, smooth design language, and classy interior. Even budget vehicles (such as the VW Beetle) have their own appeal. You could just tell they were designed with beauty in mind.
Sadly, with the coming of the modern era, aesthetics went to the backside. In the early 2000s, it was all about efficiency. Churning out the next mass market vehicle mattered more than refining it.
So here we are – two or three decades later we are seeing vehicles, which many would not consider worthy of being called “classics”. Do not get me wrong, some models are definitely great, there is no denying that.
Unfortunately, many are not. Even the least interesting classic cars of ages past put the “modern classics” to shame. For every Peugeot 205, there are probably 20 other models being perfectly mediocre. What can we expect then?
In my opinion, we are just going to see many cars disregarded completely with only a small portion of them gaining all the attention. But do you know what the good news is? If you find something interesting in these vehicles, you will probably be able to get them quite cheap!
Do you think it is worth investing in “modern classics”?
If I have to be honest, the more I studied Peugeot 205 the more I grew to like it. Perhaps it is a bit like wine – the first time you try it, you want to spit it, but then… It grows on you! France is also the country of wine, so there might be something to this entire idea.
Anyway, what do you think? Maybe this old beast is not your thing. But are there any soon-to-be classics, to which you are paying attention? I would be glad to hear about it!
Frankly though, now is the best time to invest in such a car, if you are ever planning to do so. Their prices are likely quite low and they have not yet started to shoot up. So should you ever decide to go forward with something like this, remember we can always help you with shipping a car from Florida to New York or anywhere else in the States!