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Youngsters Are Car-Shy? Peugeot Says "Mu", not "Duh"

Peugeot expands its innovative "mobility service" to numerous metropolises

Published: 12-Jan-2010

by: Martin Schwoerer

Young people of the present generation are famously unenthusiastic about purchasing cars. They seem to prefer to spend their money on iPhones and other electric gadgets. Youngsters abhor commuting and prefer to meet in urban areas or to do away with the physical stuff altogether, and get together via computer. What's a car maker to do?

France's Peugeot thinks that there will always be a need for powered transportation, and that the only thing that needs to be changed is ownership. The future, they think, entices short-term usage -- not individual ownership. And that means vehicles tailored to the task at hand: bicycles for some trips, scooters for others, EVs for most, and other, more conventional modes of transport for the rest.

How to offer this new kind of mobility? Peugeot has dreamed up a vehicle-usage club named after the Greek letter µ, or mu (which sounds similar to "Duh"). At www.mu.peugeot.fr (for those who can read French), Peugeot explains its system.

You order, online, a customer card which can be charged with points ("unités"). You reserve a vehicle at your local Peugeot dealership. You can reserve a whole trip which may even include public transport, since Peugeot has a deal with the French national rail system. Say, you take a bicycle to the train station, a train trip to Paris, and then get a van to take to a flea market in Paris, which you then drive all the way back home. One reservation portal, one payment calculation, one payment process.

(Almost uniquely, Peugeot makes a very wide variety of vehicles, from bicycles to mopends to Scooters to cars to trucks. To "Mu" a bicycle costs €5 per day, a moped €17, and an small car like the Peugeot 207, €56. What will Peugeot's version of Mitsubishi's electric iMiEV -- as depicted above -- cost? That hasn't been specified yet).

(Peugeot also makes a very fine range of pepper grinders, but it seems that Mu doesn't need any spicing up, so they won't be included in the list of rentable machines).

Peugeot dealers are thus no longer just selling a car, they are providing a service. As PSA (Peugeot Citroen SA) boss Philippe Varin says, "we want to develop services with the same rigorosity as we do when we develop cars". His company needs, according to Varin, to change from being a maker of cars, to a provider of mobility.

Started last autumn in France, Peugeot is expanding µ to other markets, with Berlin, London, Madrid, Rome and Amsterdam to be tackled next summer.

Problems? Yes: after years of consolidation, dealers tend to have moved out to shopping centers. Dealers in central locations are few and far between. Peugeot intends to change this; with its good mix of city-friendly vehicles, it sounds advisable anyway -- even without Mu.

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