Brand or Banned

Is DS going to be blackballed?

Ceci n'est pas une Citroën #1
Ceci n’est pas une Citroën #1

Although I’ve never been a club sort of person, for various reasons I’ve been an on-off member of the British “Citroën Car Club” for many years. It’s a long-established and still apparently healthy club, with a well-produced magazine. When I first received ‘The Citroënian’ they were coming to terms with the aftermath of the Peugeot takeover and were introducing a column for the newly released Visa, a car not without merits and character but, like the stop gap LN/A before it, based on the Peugeot 104.

Since then, a host of PSA derived models have joined to rub shoulders with the quintessential Traction Avant and Déesse. The Club even dutifully launched a column for the featureless blob that was the Xsara and, basically, if it’s got chevrons on the front, it gets written about.

Now, however, they find themselves in a quandary. With DS becoming a stand-alone brand, despite employing the initials that mean so much to any true Citroëniste, they’re not really Citroën’s any more are they? The Club is said to be considering this carefully, and I would see their reasons. If they accept the new brand, why not bring in Peugeot too? If they reject it, will they be left with just the bargain basement boxes that future Citroëns might become?

Ceci n'est pas une Citroën #1
Ceci n’est pas une Citroën #2

The whole business highlights the fatuousness of ‘brand’. People who were, in some cases, fanatically faithful to anything called ‘Citroën’, irrespective of how mundane it actually was, will now be confronted with a selection of cars that, since they have a different name, they have no reason to feel loyal to.

And is the ‘success’ of the DS brand real? In Europe it seems to be based entirely on the success of the DS3, a cost-effective MINI alternative, and it might be argued that this car would have been just as popular if it had been called the Citroën C3 Sport. You can draw parallels with both MINI and 500, but in both these cases they have actually played off the shape of the original car that names them.

So far, Citroën/DS at least get my respect for not tarting up a C5 in retro Déesse drag, but when the time comes to replace the DS3, what cues will they use to ensure continuity? I can already imagine talk of “The DS3’s iconic shark’s fin”, but it will mean nothing to anyone outside PSA.

Citroën seem to be totally enamoured with brand experts Landor who, with a mixture of good sense and utter bullshit, do seem to have given them more confidence in themselves. But is that confidence justified and, aside from Citroën and Landor, who else really cares? I find Citroën’s golden years fascinating, and I’m fond of my own Citroën. There are even post takeover Citroëns I respect too. But really I don’t give a toss about the brand any more.

11 thoughts on “Brand or Banned”

  1. I suggest the same is true of Volvo, SAAB, Rover (historically speaking) perhaps even Porsche. Loyalty to the brand is only skin deep and can be easily swayed to the next medallion to wear.

    1. Stephen.I’m not sure I’d agree with all your examples. I think both Citroen and Saab were bolstered for a long time by loyal marque devotees, who refused to see their beloved brands as Vauxhalls or Peugeots in drag. It does however get to a tipping point where credibility is stretched. When Citroen soon stops making hydraulically suspended cars, the old guard will have nothing more to latch on to. The young guard just sees Citroen as an alternative to one of the Korean manufacturers (and these days I don’t see that as an insult, but just a market position). So possibly PSA are right to abandon ship and start again with DS as an upmarket label. Brands have a finite life.

  2. Since I canremeber when Citroens such as the CX, BX, Xantia and XM were on sale new, I had an image of Citroen which was based on their tradition of innovation. Presumably people in their early 30s and under have another vision, one which is based on very little of substance. I expect Citroen is for many no different than Kia or Hundai or Seat, just another brand. Those people have little reason to stick with Citroen or even be attracted to them. The brand is now as empty as that of box of soap powder or cereal in the supermarket aisle. As such adding the DS line of cars to Citroenian or really any new Citroen seems quite pointless since “Citroen” means nothing distinctive at all.

  3. After their takeover of Citroen, Peugeot seemed to be making a point with the LN. Taking a 104Z and sticking a set of chevrons on the front and fitting it with a 2 cylinder Dyane engine and headlamps was almost offensively cheapskate. This set out their intentions that Citroen would no longer occupy a position above Peugeot in the marketplace. This attitude has continued and, although Citroen managed to get the XM made, many PSA Citroens almost seem to have been intentionally styled to make them more dowdy than their (once) Pininfarina drawn cousins. This was stupid, ill-placed pride on the part of Peugeot. They had acquired a brand that they should have nurtured and elevated. And that would have benefited them. Excellent though their cars once were, at heart Peugeot was run by conservative, bourgeois, penny-saving managers, lacking vision, and that attitude has affected both brands negatively.

  4. I have nothing to add to your last sentence, Sean.

    The question of brand loyalty is a very lively one to me in these days. Born into a family of devoted Citroënistes since 1959, I have never owned a car from an other brand, although I have often thought about Saab, Peugeot, Renault, Lancia and a few others. I find that I tend to rate a car more favourably if it wears the double chevron (or even the “double banane” of these days). And I guess this even applies to anything with “DS-wings”.

    But I see my sympathy more and more shifting towards older models and don’t try to care about PSA’s fate any more, the PSA that almost deliberately tries to inflict ever increasing disappointment on me.

    I have seen other people’s interest shift from Citroëns (especially the big, hydropneumatic ones) towards companies that today stand for innovation: Toyata with their Prius or Tesla, for example. And I think also for me time has come to concentrate on the classics (namely, my GS) and keep the C6 as long as it makes sense. And then? We’ll see…

    1. I’ve never really identified myself as a Citroeniste although I’ve owned or shared custody of 2 Dyanes, a Light 15, a BX and an SM (the Berlingos, excellent though they were, don’t count). I nearly bought a GSA Break once then, in an inexplicable fit of practicality, got a Peugeot 305 Estate instead. I can’t remember exactly when I gave up on Citroen. Probably when it thought that re-branding itself with the Créative Technologie strapline was better than actually bothering to be creatively technological – or technologically creative. Up until then I’d lived in denial for some time. I seriously considered buying a Cactus last year(until I sat in it), but not because it was a Citroen. I was tempted with a C6 but, and you admit it yourself so I won’t risk offending you or SV, the dashboard is so disappointing. I’ve also considered a series 1 C5 from time to time, because it seems actually to be rather good under the skin – though the only one I could bear to look at would be a facelifted estate. Certainly, if you’re looking for proper technology these days, look to Tesla, or Toyota. Now you’d never have believed that last name back in 1975.

    2. I actually like the C6’s dashboard – large parts of it, anyway. Even more so when coming back from most other newer cars whose dashes are either overstyled or just plain dull while mostly lacking the readability of the C6’s large digital numbers plus HUD.
      But as a Citroën driver, I have learned not to take offence too easily when people comment on my motoring choices. So, none taken! Especially as I agree 100% on how you see the C5 I.

    3. Simon. I’ve just had another look at the C6 interior, and you’re quite right. The centre console is a a bit cluttered and ordinary, but everything above it is nicely minimal and elegant. I guess I was harking for the drama of a CX.

      Citroen driving has always felt that you are on a mission to re-educate the motoring world. In my youth driving Dyanes, I felt honour bound to drive it as fast as possible, indulging party tricks like driving round the inside of other drivers on roundabouts. Fortunately, I’ve matured – a bit.

      A while ago I got trapped waiting at the car wash and got the usual “is that the one with a Maserati engine?” question. When I answered yes, the next comment was “I suppose it’s quite fast …. until you come to a corner!”. And he was driving a bloody Volvo estate. I seriously thought of following him and looking for a suitable roundabout.

    4. Soft suspensions are wobbly, unprecise, and don’t hold the road. They are only made for driving straight (and slow).
      Misconceptions never die.

      I drove to Germany today. The Autobahn was curvy, I drove fast. The C6 was comfortable and safe. And fun. Maturing is for later.

      But I guess, on my way home next Sunday, I will just put the cruise control on 125 and enjoy a very quiet and relaxed journey home.

    5. It’s me who has said in the past (and as an owner) that I’m not, on the whole, a fan of the C6’s dashboard. I agree that the HUD is great and the way that it is on a similar sight line as the infotainment screen works well, but the centre console is a mess, and, as a whole, the different elements do not hang together with cohesion – kind of like the original dash on the early Austin Maestro (but with much, much nicer materials and no rattles). It could also be a little less bulky, particularly around the centre console, which encroaches too much into the footwell than is necessary or desirable.

      What you do get with the C6 is remarkable quiet, refinement, comfort and – in the main – a truly pillowy ride (it can be caught out by sharp ruts and pot-holes). Oh, and quite striking looks on the outside – not as perfect as the CX, but arresting nevertheless.

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