In comparison, for the year to the end of July, the Vauxhall Omega notched up 8,571 sales, 89% of them to fleets, ahead of cheaper cars including the Nissan Primera, and Fiat Bravo/Brava. Peugeot sees a prime market among Vauxhall customers for the new 607 - which will be given its first public showing at the Frankfurt Motor Show next month. The new model will be the manufacturer's first new car of the millennium and has jumped two model numbers compared to other variants. This represents the first phase in a whole range of new cars to take on the --7 brand, but the absence of a 606 also highlights the lack of an executive model from Peugeot since the 605 ended production.
However, Peugeot engineers have not been idle and a host of new innovations will be available with the new car to tempt buyers away from rivals. The 607 will be available in saloon format only and will be powered by three new or uprated engines, starting with a 2.2-litre four-cylinder petrol, producing 160bhp and a 210bhp 3.0-litre petrol, which is a variant of the 3.0 V6 already available in the 406 Coupe.
There will also be a 139bhp 2.2-litre common rail diesel, allied to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearbox, which will also offer a semi-automatic changing option and a 'drive-by-wire' throttle. The diesel will score a world first by the fitment of a particulates filter pioneered by PSA to ensure it meets Euro III emission targets. Performance figures or prices are not yet available for the new car, which is expected to go on sale in the UK in the summer of 2000 after a March launch in France.
However, with Vauxhall a direct target and Peugeot saying prices will be competitive, the prices are likely to start about £19,000- £20,000.
Despite the high expectations of the new model, the car's designers have not resorted to bland styling. Instead there are bold sweeping headlamps, reminiscent of the 206, a new grille and striking rear taillights.
During a sneak preview of the car for journalists in Paris, a look inside revealed large swathes of plastic, particularly in front of the passenger, although Peugeot claims it has managed to fit class-leading storage space in the cabin. There are some clever styling touches, including a boot release hidden in the '0' of the 607 badge, which opens to reveal a large load area. Inside, safety has played a large part in product development, with front passenger and curtain side airbags along with ABS, Electronic Stability Programme, Anti-Skid Control and also a system to provide extra assistance to the brakes in emergency stops. Furthermore, during heavy braking, the hazard lights flash automatically to warn drivers behind of a sudden drop in speed.
The 607 also includes intelligent headlights, which turn on automatically when the car 'thinks' it is too dark. The car also has a low tyre pressure warning system, reversing 'radar' - which emits bleeps to inform the driver how close the car is to objects behind - rain-sensitive wipers and self-dipping mirrors. Electrical systems are connected by 'multiplexing', a common wiring system which cuts down on the amount of wires needed and also reduces the potential for electrical faults.
Road noise is reduced through double glazing and there is also a refrigerated glovebox. The remote central locking provides a global closing feature - which shuts sunroof and windows left open after the driver has left the car and folds back the door mirrors out of harm's way - and a 'follow-me home' lights feature which keeps the cars lights on for a few moments, illuminating the pathway for the driver or passengers.
On the road, suspension can be adapted to nine settings to provide either comfort or sports handling and provides automatic compensation for heavy loads, while seats will be provided with memory settings for individual drivers. The radio will also have speed adaptable volume and the indicators will become increasingly loud to warn drivers if they have been left on. The whole package will be wrapped up with a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty and the vehicles are expected to continue Peugeot's standard 20,000-mile service intervals for petrol models and 12,000-mile intervals for diesels, although an intelligent on-board system will monitor engine performance and inform the driver when a service should be carried out. And when a service is required, Peugeot is planning to assign each vehicle to a named member of a dealership's staff whom a driver can contact with any queries.
A spokesman for Peugeot said: 'The 607 completes the Peugeot range but also prepares us for a new range to be rolled out in the third millennium. We have been obsessed by quality with this model and although we are not looking at sales to equal the Vauxhall Omega, we would be looking at mounting a significant challenge and taking volume away from rival manufacturers.'