So reports the team at Autocar. It is true that only one firm can sell the cheapest product in a given market. Citroën has noticed that being the next cheapest or quite cheap or cheap-ish is not really getting them very far. Time to try something else.
But can they move away from the corner they are painted into? Price is nicely measurable. You add up the numbers and you get a figure you can compare easily to every one else´s figures. Style on the other hand is a qualitative thing. Once you decide to focus on style you are focusing on something that is much harder to manage reliably. How will PSA ensure the Citroëns look good and not controversial or short-lived? The next stumbling block is that the DS brand and Peugeot are also not majoring on price. If Citroëns are supposed to look really good then how will they look really good in a way that does not make Peugeot cars look relatively less appealing? Under the old regime, Peugeot were PSA products for people who were a bit less price sensitive and Citroën aimed at value. Those two parameters capture different sorts of people. Now both (or all three brands) are moving away from differentiation on the basis of price and will be struggling to find non-measurable ways to gain sales but not from each other.
Without a USP that is really tangible, PSA are just causing trouble for themselves. Citroën´s boss Linda Jackson said the cars would look distinctive but “that doesn’t mean they’ll all look the same – although there will be a coherence – but they must be striking, they must put an emphasis on comfortable ride and they must offer technology that people use, to make their lives better.” Right. And Peugeot and DS will offer cars that are not so comfortable and whose technology is not so useful. The new Peugeot 409 will have an ice-cream maker in the rear footwell. The DS will have pebble-dashed windows and will be cart-sprung. I am jesting of course.
The answer to this conundrum, by the way, is nothing new but made more difficult now that the DS line of cars exists. PSA need to follow the Richard formula of having ranges of cars that have distinct and exclusive body shells, unique and proprietary technology and base model prices that do not overlap. This was the situation that existed when Citroën sold modernist hatchbacks with hydropneumatic suspension and Peugeot sold saloons with conventional suspension.
If PSA don´t do something like this again and merely have three lines of cars selling within a similar price range they will soon find one of these three brands is surplus to requirements. Oh if it were the pointless, pointless DS marque but something tells me that Citroën is going to be a dead brand in one model cycle. As it is, having a small range of platforms and using the same engines in all three lines means PSA is heading down a path explored by GM in the 80s, where their brands competed with each other and not with the other maker’s products.
Goodness. I really wish I could write something good about PSA. I like France: I really want to be having a coffee in Chantilly right now. The French are great: I wish I had some French culture and not my workaday Anglo-Celtic inheritance. Peugeot and Citroën once made superb vehicles. It would be so good to have nothing to write about them in the way I can find little of interest in Audi or VW.