The Research and Development department for the models produced by PSA is spread over four of the group's historic sites: Vélizy-Villacoublay, La Garenne-Colombes and Carrières-sous-Poissy in the Paris region, as well as the Belchamp technical test centre near Sochaux. Here, the Group's future vehicles are designed and tested in confidence until prototypes are produced, followed by Concept Cars to be unveiled to the press and the public at international shows.
Since the beginning of the 2000s, platform No. 2 of the Vélizy-Villacoublay Technical Centre, in the Yvelines, has been home to the PSA Research and Development office. This site, which initially covers 70,000 m2, comprises a curved building, 270 m long and 65 m wide, built on an embankment overlooking the A86 motorway. Since 2004, the design centre (Automotive Design Network) has been integrated into the building, bringing together all the group's stylists as well as some from regular external collaborations, such as those from Pininfarina. At the top of the building, there is a vast presentation room that can accommodate up to ten finished prototypes.
The technological solutions present on the 407 Elixir offer excellent road holding combined with a high level of driving comfort. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Peugeot
Tradition and modernity
At Peugeot, concept cars have long been developed in-house. The engineers work in symbiosis with the stylists to design projects that are functional and drivable from the outset, which is not the case with all manufacturers who frequently present fixed models. Peugeot's Concept Cars are imagined in a realistic spirit, with an architecture, dimensions and technical elements that can be produced in series in the medium term. The development of this vision of the Concept Car at Peugeot dates back to 1984 with the Quasar, an extraordinary avant-garde technological showcase. For the first time, the Design Office was given carte blanche to create a vehicle outside of all industrial constraints. At the time, on the initiative of Gérard Welter, the "in-house" designer, the Concept Cars that followed always had a link with competition, such as the Proxima in 1986 and the Oxia in 1988. Subsequently, Concept Cars such as the 20Cœur (1998), the RCZ Concept (2009) or the Onyx (2012) regularly redefined the style of the brand's production models.
The Peugeot 907 is a Grand Touring Concept Car designed by Gérard Welter that evokes the endurance success of the 905 Sport Prototype. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Peugeot
The concept car is a model that is usually built in a limited number of cars to promote a new range or a change in style. It is also a technological and stylistic showcase to gauge the reactions of the public and the specialist press before launching a new trend. Although most of Peugeot's concept cars are suitable for use on the test track, they are not initially approved for the road. In the same spirit, the Show Car creates an expectation among potential customers of an expected model by revealing on the stand of a trade show what the car will be like with a few details. The Concept Car and the Show Car should not be confused with prototypes or pre-production models. While the latter two are designed to be publicised with a view to a commercial launch, the prototype, which is the vehicle in its final phase of development, must remain confidential for as long as possible in order not to be copied by the competition.
The dynamic styling of the 407 Silhouette is a reference to the models in the Supertouring Championship, where Peugeot regularly performs. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Peugeot
The Lion Concept Cars
When launching a new project that may eventually lead to a Concept Car, Peugeot's designers listen to current trends in fields very different from the automobile, such as fashion, graphic arts, architecture or new technologies. The idea is to identify the expectations and needs of potential customers. These trends will then be applied to the vehicle's exterior styling, but also to the interior, where fashionable materials and colours will be used. A set of specifications (called a Mood Board) is first drawn up, then the Style Department calls on all the design offices, sometimes even launching a certain amount of competition between the teams. Time is of the essence because Concept Cars are unveiled at regular intervals at the various shows where each manufacturer makes a point of unveiling a new trend. When a project is selected, digital models are made, followed by 1:1 scale models to get a good idea of the general balance of the lines. This is followed by a 3D CAD scan, while a new, much more accurate volume model is built, allowing for fine-tuning of fit details both inside and outside the car. At this design stage, specialist subcontractors are sometimes used to manufacture certain elements that require specific skills.
The Peugeot H2O from 2002 is an intervention vehicle concept car equipped with a fuel cell with real-time hydrogen production.. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Peugeot
The 907 Grand Touring Coupé represents a milestone in Peugeot's modern styling history. Designed in 2004 under the direction of Gérard Welter, then head of styling at Peugeot, the 907 is the first model from the Sochaux-based brand to adopt a V12 engine. This engine, with a displacement of 5,892 cm3 and developing 490 bhp, is installed in the front longitudinal position and is coupled to a six-speed sequential gearbox. The monocoque bodywork of this unique car is made of carbon fibre. The interior is particularly luxurious, with brown leather and grey alcantara upholstery, and precious wood on the steering wheel and gearshift knob.
The 407 Elixir and Silhouette
Presented at the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Elixir is supposed to present the future stylistic and technical themes of Peugeot's family saloon and estate range. Its lines give off an idea of dynamism and elegance with its steeply raked windscreen that extends into a glass roof. It is powered by a 2.7 litre (200 bhp) HDI six-cylinder engine combined with a Porsche Tiptronic-type sequential transmission. The Silhouette is a sporty variation of this concept car. It has a tubular chassis and its 2,946 cm3 V6 engine (320 hp) is installed in the rear centre position.