Country of Montbeliard.  At the age of 125, Peugeot Motorcycles in search of a new life

Country of Montbeliard. At the age of 125, Peugeot Motorcycles in search of a new life

From here, at the entrance of the site which is now a huge heritage of the glorious past, almost two hundred years of glorious industrial history awaits you. Cars, but even more bicycles were collected there by the thousands at the end of the 19th century.e century. It was here, too, that in 1898, Peugeot developed the world’s first two-wheeled motorcycle. Opening a new era in the Simba saga. With the emergence of Peugeot Motorcycles.

Up to 800,000 mopeds per year

You should imagine that here, on the banks of the Doubs, where there were about four thousand workers, up to about 800,000 mopeds were produced on the assembly lines per year. It was in 1973, with the full enthusiasm associated with the incredible success of the famous Peugeot 103 released in 1971. Before ten years later, Peugeot distinguished itself by claiming to be a pioneer in the modification of plastic works. The era of the motorcycle, in the early 80s, was underway.

Forty years later, however, there are only 320 workers here. They were still five times more than two decades ago. But five social initiatives have passed since then. Annual production stands at six thousand units. Finally, until then. Because in this spring of 2023, life here has started again two thousand hours an hour. For a few weeks, in fact, the historic factory of the last two-wheeled car manufacturer in France has been resurrected. And jealousy.

The meeting of the new model remains, of course, always an event. But the one that went into production is even more so because it awakens a rarely seen passion. In any case, at least since the launch in 2013 of the Metropolis, the three-wheeled Simba, is still made here with its 400 cc engine. 3 taken for a stranger: XP 400. Which, a clever combination between a motorcycle and a scooter, caused a sensation when it was presented at the world exhibition of two wheels in Milan last November.

Antoine Peugeot on the P115 GS. Photo ER/Jacques BALTHAZARD

Released in 1971, the Peugeot 103 was a huge success. Photo ER/Lionel VADAM

“Proof that we can produce the highest quality cars in France”

The result: more than 2,100 pre-orders, almost unheard of. So much so that the sales director, Matthieu Brinon, speaks of a “historic launch”. Especially since, since then, the curve has been going to crescendo. A real desire in many countries, reaching some that were not targeted, like Turkey. Thus, the annual sales target set earlier can be achieved within a few months. “This is proof that we can produce the most advanced cars of this type in France”. Because that’s what it’s all about: a top-of-the-range car, in Lion form.

The result: about forty part-time workers hired to ensure a daily harvest of 80 units. Moreover, the strength of the site, where the skills of the ancestors are developed, especially in the processing of engine parts, depends on the payment. And Metropolis, a 125 cm scooter³ Pulsion (launched in 2019) and now XP 400, which should make it possible to approach the ceiling of 10,000 machines produced annually within these walls. According to the purpose of the rescue plan launched in 2019, which was accompanied by 90 job cuts.

In the same year, the Indian manufacturer Mahindra became the sole owner of Peugeot Motorcycles. PSA, which had given him 51% five years ago, will definitely hand it over to him. According to the logic of the union with Simba Peugeot, however. Especially through the “Design Lab” or, even symbolically, through a 50-year license, guaranteeing at that time the modification of the label on the brand’s gear.

A progressive investment fund

A label that has high hopes abroad, especially in Asia where the vast majority of the 75,000 Peugeot Motorcycles branded motorcycles sold annually around the world are now produced.

Recently, however, Mahindra, which was struggling to make losses after investing heavily, is no longer in control. The Indian giant sold 50% of the share capital, but even more than 80% of the voting rights in the manufacturer whose head office remains in Mandeure, to the German Mutares. From the name of an investment fund operating in the automotive, engineering and goods and services sectors.

Specialization: the acquisition of companies in trouble with the aim of turning them around to sell them better. “Mahindra was looking for a partner with a closer relationship, that is what we will bring with our teams in France”, explains the representative, in France, of this listed company with annual sales of 4 billion. Which emphasizes, as if it removes the fear, especially inside the historical factory where, after very difficult years when technical unemployment measures were collected (with a peak of 58 days in 2016), we finally discover the future: yes, the idea is to be “a long time”.

Of course, it’s hard to do anything with a 125-year-old brand…

The Peugeot PM-01 motorcycle was shown at the last motorcycle show, on March 25 in Montbéliard.  Photo ER /Lionel VADAM

With the PM-01, Peugeot is reuniting the motorcycle

Produced in China, at the factory of the former Indian owner of Peugeot Motorcycles Mahindra, it does not produce the historic Mandeure factory. But it was one of the highlights of the Montbéliard motorcycle show last March. The Peugeot PM-01 was presented for the first time in Franche-Comté, after being shown at the Milan two-wheel show in November 2022.

Peugeot Motorcycles is reviving a historic tradition, the brand having produced several examples of all displacement people at the beginning of the 20th century. This road sold in 125 and 300 cm3 will have a lot to do, it faces intensified competition, and potential connoisseur customers. Visitors to Franche-Comté who visited the motorcycle show last spring were torn between pleasant visual surprise and skepticism, the lion brand not having been associated with motorcycles for a long time. This motorcycle also symbolizes the strategy of Peugeot Motorcycles which, with an expanded product range, wants to reach new customers.

125 years later, the saga of Peugeot Motorcycles is still being written

The history of Peugeot Motorcycles began in 1898. Peugeot then presented its first two-wheeled motorcycle at the 7th Cycle and Motor Show. The machine has the engine of De Dion-Bouton, a 19th century French car manufacturer. This is the first chapter of a very long story that continues to be written today. This motorcycle was quickly successful, despite the weight of 85 kg. Very quickly, the production of motor cycles was modernized. In 1903, the 2HP was released. The Werners had just developed a motorcycle and Peugeot Motocycle ran into the breach. 2HP weighs 40 kg this time and runs up to 50 km/h.

The turn of the century also marked the first victory in the Simba brand competition. On September 20, 1903, he won the motorcycle benchmark, even beating the world record for 100 km, at an average speed of 72 km / h. Peugeot MD then opened the era of light motorcycles in 1910, and was one of the best sellers in France until 1913 (10,000 units).

Peugeot MD light motorcycle of 1911. This model sold 10,000 units. Photo ER /Aurélien BRETON

1926 marks the first change. A new company, Cycles Peugeot, has been created, separating the profitable cycle business from the loss-making car business. A period of success followed, the golden age of motorcycles at Peugeot Motocycle, with 18,602 motorcycles sold in 1930, an increase of 85% in four years. Then comes the launch of P515. Although his name no longer lives on today, he made history, winning 9 world speed records alone during the 24-hour race in Montlhéry. This motorcycle also won the Bol d’Or in 1934, in its 500 cc category.

The P515 broke world records and won the Bol d’Or in 1934. Photo ER /Mtb01 FREELANCE

After Liberation, Peugeot launched in the production of mopeds, 100 cm³ and 125 cm³. In 1951, the brand also launched the Bima bicycle, which competed with the VeloSolex.

Record broken by 103

1953 was another important year for Peugeot, which released the S55 scooter. Its style is inspired by the Peugeot 203, at a time when Peugeot cars were undergoing a renaissance. A style that also inspired Peugeot Djangoreleased in 2014.

The Peugeot Django is reminiscent of the S55, itself inspired by the Peugeot 203. Photo ER / Lionel VADAM

Make way for the era of mopeds. The launch of the Peugeot 101, an entry-level product in 1967, boosted sales. Reach 102, 104… and worship 103. Or LA 103, if we are talking about mopeds. The sales record was broken in 1974, and 550,000 mopeds were sold.

The 1980s would be marked by a renewed focus on scooters. Peugeot Motorcycles splits from the Cycles Peugeot business that year. A modification that led to the closure of the production site of Saint-Louis, in Alsace, and the renewal of the neighboring site of Dannemarie (68).

The era of the scooter and its plastic displays is here. It was launched with the Peugeot SC and SX (1983) then the ST (1984). The 1990s brought the point home, with the birth of the SV, Buxy, Speedake then, in 1997, speed fight which will sell 600,000 copies.

The Speedfight, here in its second edition released at the beginning of 2000, is one of the biggest sellers of Peugeot scooters. Photo of the ER

The 2000s are the years of decline. The workforce is melting like snow in the sun. The site still had 1,500 employees in 2004. 1,200 in 2011, after two waves of voluntary departures. Dannemarie’s website was also shut down in the early 2010s.

The capital cityThe three-wheeled scooter, with two wheels at the front, was released in 2013. It is still being produced in Mandeure today.

Metropolis, here in its 2019 version, is still produced in Mandeure. Photo ER/Francoise JEANPARIS

In 2014, India’s Mahindra group joined the fray, becoming the owner of 51% ( then 100% in 2019 ) the rest is for PSA. Downsizing continues. In 2016, the factory sometimes works, and 40 to 110 cars are produced per day. Since 2006, with the cooperation with Qingji, a large number of cars are produced in China.

In 2018, new job cuts were announced: the company lost 70 million euros in three years. The Mandeure site now has 320 employees and specializes in brand quality vehicles. After Metropolis and Pulsion, it’s XP400’s turn , to be released in Doubs. It now brings new hope to the Mandeure site. In the context where Peugeot Motorcycles has been taken since the beginning of the year, and the German company Mutares.