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Europe’s economy is in dire straits, and the continent’s carmakers can no longer prioritise their home market for growth. Developing markets are where the action is – besides cash cow China, there’s South America, Eastern Europe and Russia. Loss-making Peugeot hasn’t been very strong outside of Western Europe, but with a new brand CEO who speaks Cantonese, things are about to change, Autocar UK reports.

New brand CEO Maxime Picat has said that the expansion hinges on the success of the new Peugeot 301 saloon. Designed for the rest of the world, we first saw the 301 in May last year. The 4.44 metre-long sedan has been developed to adapt to various conditions and extremes – think cold weather, hot weather, poor roads, etc. Click here for full details and pics.

In 2010, only 30% of Peugeot sales were from outside Western Europe. The figure rose to 42% in 2011 thanks to fruits from its Chinese JV with DongFeng Motor, which at the time was headed by Picat. Now that he’s in charge of the whole company, the target is to have overseas sales contribute 50% of total sales by 2015, and 60% by 2020.

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The 301, which has a big 506 litre boot, will spearhead Peugeot’s assault on Turkey, Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, Ukraine, the Middle East and selected Latin American markets. The car will then be launched and manufactured in China.

The reason why this main weapon is a sedan is simple – people outside of Europe prefer a boot. In hatchback-loving Europe, only 2% of new cars in this size class are saloons, but the figure is 74% in the Middle East, 64% in Asia and 50% in both Eastern Europe and Africa, Picat points out.

The Peugeot 301 is the length of a Honda City, but at 2,650 mm, the Pug’s wheelbase is a full 100 mm longer. Do you think the 301 will work here in Malaysia as a Vios/City rival?