World Car of the Year 1988 finally retires after 33 years
Oh, hang on - no, the Peugeot 405 just changed a number in its name
Developing countries are often quite content to get many more years from cars long after the First World is done with them. The 1961 Renault 4 was still being built in 1991 Slovenia. The Volkswagen Beetle was made in Mexico up until 2003. The old Fiat 124 became the Russian LADA of today. And it turns out there is another one – a Peugeot.
If you’re thinking of the 504, or as it was called, the “King of Africa”, it isn’t that.
It hasn’t been made in France or England since 1997, but for the past twenty years, about five-million Peugeot 405s have been popping out of factories in Zimbabwe, Egypt, Iran, Chile, Argentina, Poland, Taiwan, and Thailand.
All of these countries gave up over the years except for the Iranian company, IKCO. They kept going, even creating a two-door pick-up version. Until late last year, when IKCO finally announced that they would fulfil their orders, but no more.
However, rather than sit back in their seats and congratulate themselves on what a nice run they had with it, Peugeot just handed the licencing and tooling over to a transport company in Azerbaijan instead, called Azermash. Unlike the Iranians who have been hit hard by US sanctions, the Azerbaijanians have high industrial hopes of making 7,000 of their own cars by 2023.
Of the three car and truck manufacturers overseen by Azermash, the one chosen to make the new old Peugeot is Khazar.
When it was truly new in 1987, the 405 was perhaps most famous for “taking your breath away”.
It hails from a time before the French had called their meeting and decided to “make terrible cars; horrible, in every way”. Admittedly, it was styled by the Italians over at Pininfarina and shares a lot in common with the Citroën BX. But whatever, in 1988, it won World Car of the Year by the most votes ever recorded in the competition. Either 1988 was a very boring year, or the Peugeot 405 was really quite brilliant.
Of course, it’s probably pretty rubbish by today’s standards. But Azerbaijan could have done a lot worse. Such as, for instance, a 2006 Peugeot 207.
It seems Khazar also secured the rights to this. They said in the press release that the “currently produced Peugeot 406 is called both Peugeot and Khazar. But the new model [the 207] will have the only name – Peugeot.” In other words, “we have nothing to do with this piece of crap”.
Oh, and yes, there it is. The 405 is now called the 406, and if you – like me – were expecting a rather good-looking V6 coupe with ornate seat covers, it’s not. It’s simply a 405 with a facelift.
So the trusty Peugeot 405 from 1987 lives on. It can be had as either a saloon or estate, with keyless entry, electric windows, climate control, and dual front airbags, for the equivalent of 9,250 euros.