It’s probably a stretch to say that the Peugeot 405 has become a rare sight on our roads, since it wasn’t exactly abundant on our roads to begin with. Rather, it was arguably Peugeot’s late and somewhat halfhearted attempt to transition dwindling numbers of Peugeot buyers on to a new model. The 405 S above was seen on the not-particularly-mean streets of midtown Manhattan not too long ago.
Sold for four short years stateside, the 405 came in sedan and wagon form, with a severely reduced range of engines compared to other markets. We got the 1.9 liter DL, S and Mi16 versions of Peugeot’s four cylinder engine, while the UK got a dozen 405s with cool trim names like Hunter, Quasar, and Executive (okay, Quasar is probably not a cool trim name). Not to mention Europe got a ton of different turbodiesels. That’s right, that’s what we were denied on this side of the pond. Add to that the entire range of Pug 205s.
Some of you will remember Jason Cammisa’s excellent and very exuberant article on the 405 Mi16 in last year’s Automobile Magazine. And indeed, the Mi16 was a pretty impressive performer, producing 150bhp and sitting on a wonderfully sorted chassis. It often seems like most surviving Peugeot 405s in America are Mi16s, cared for by dedicated enthusiasts, but as the blue example seen here proves there are still some base-spec 405s used as year round daily drivers. And that’s an even cooler thing to see.
The 405 left our shores as abruptly as it had appeared. American Peugeot buyers in the 1980s mostly purchased 505s, which were large cars by anyone’s standards. Buyers often cross shopped these with Volvo 700 and 900 series cars, which weren’t especially tiny or light themselves. So the 405 had little chance of filling the 505’s shoes, and Peugeot chose not to send the 605 stateside, perhaps sensing that the days of large French sedans on American roads were numbered.
Several years after Peugeot left the US market, they were still eying a comeback as they had left a pretty large dealer network, though mostly on the two coasts. Connecticut alone had 10 Peugeot dealers, in an area the size of, well, Connecticut. New Jersey topped the list with a whopping 19 dealerships. Most other states had one or two, usually as part of a random import franchise that typically included Renaults and Volvos. In 1996 a friend of mine had the opportunity to try a Peugeot 406 sedan demo that Peugeot had provided to a number of former dealerships that still serviced Peugeots, though he wasn’t particularly impressed with it.
The 405s, however, disappeared pretty quickly, especially the wagons which sold in laughably small numbers. In fact, I have only ever seen one Peugeot 405 wagon stateside, and not exactly in the wild.