Why the Peugeot 104 only got a fifth door after four years

The cause lies a few hundred kilometers to the east, and a few years back in time. The American giant Chrysler takes a substantial stake in Simca and almost simultaneously Citroën and Fiat begin to flirt with each other. Peugeot and Renault already see the mood: competing with the mighty Chrysler group and a potential Fiat/Citroën group is not going to be a party. In 1966 Peugeot and Renault conclude a gentlemen’s agreement, in which they agree not to compete with each other in certain market segments. Renault targets a trendy audience with handy hatchbacks, and Peugeot serves the bourgeoisie with decent sedans. The loot is also divided for the new supermini segment: Renault is developing a mini with a large tailgate, but only three doors. The new small Peugeot gets a traditional boot lid, but four doors. Both cars come on the market almost simultaneously in 1972. The Renault 5 is an instant hit, with its shield bumpers and its hip appearance. But the Peugeot 104 turns out to be a difficult case. It is pricey and especially lacks such a handy tailgate. Meanwhile, the relationship between Peugeot and Renault has not improved. The men of the Régie bust the door in Sochaux, taking back the necessary secret information. The takeover of Citroën by Peugeot, at the end of 1974, is once again a problem for Renault. In early 1975, the situation escalates. Renault leaks prematurely – and against the agreements – information about the new 3.0 V6. That draws customers away from the Citroën CX, which does not have a V6. Peugeot is furious, and the French magazines headline ‘Renault-Peugeot – c’est la guerre!’. It is war. The collaboration is clearly over and Peugeot continues. In 1976 the four-door Peugeot 104 still got a large tailgate, after the shortened 104 Coupé with third door saw the light of day in 1974. Thus the shortest sedan in the world begins its second life: a career as a five-door hatchback, which will last until 1983. This article originally appeared in AutoWeek Classics issue 12 of 2019.

Source: AutoWeek by www.autoweek.nl.

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