Is This News?

Before penning this I consulted Simon about this story on the demise of the Citroën oleopneumatic suspension system.

1989 Citroen XM:
1989 Citroen XM:

He reminded me that the matter had come up a year ago and indeed I had myself imagined that the current Citroën C5 would be the last hydraulic Citroën. What prompted me to think it was news was that TTAC reported it yesterday. And they got the story from…

Reuters who published it on the 4th of June. The juiciet bit of the Reuters article is this: “More recently, however, electronically controlled alternatives such as Volkswagen’s DCC adaptive suspension have beaten Citroën’s hydraulics – or more accurately hydropneumatics – on handling and price.

The decision to scrap the in-house suspension comes as Peugeot slashes costs under Chief Executive Carlos Tavares by cutting inventory, headcount and production of components that can be sourced more cheaply elsewhere.

“Tavares has made it clear that there are now other systems that can do just as well,” one of the sources said. “Hydropneumatics cost a lot for not much benefit.”

Nobody cared whether it was suspended with steel springs or not:
Nobody cared whether it was suspended with steel springs or not:

Ironically, however, the phase-out comes just as Peugeot is developing DS as a stand-alone luxury car brand, playing on the new models’ connection with their famous ancestor and the Nouvelle Vague heyday it embodied in French popular culture.”

I suppose what has happened is that the issue became hard to ignore since Citroën has offered only one car with oleopneumatic suspension and even then it was an option. Sales were down to 10,000 units a year. It was evident they were not going to go very much further with the concept. Now it seems it’s semi-official “say sources”.

I think that while it is true that standard suspension has come a long way, Citroen did not work terribly hard to keep their system competitive. The technology gap closed because PSA didn´t want to bother. It´s not as if large Citroen´s have scored wildly better at ride quality these last ten years or more.

The other regrettable aspect is that Citroën is not moving on to an even more advanced system. They are simply buying suspension off the shelf, just as they are making a meal of their DS sub-brand. Some argue – such as CEO Carlos Tavares – that costs too much to make and to run. I’d argue this is nothing a bunch of good engineers could not work around.

In the year since I first started thinking about the end of oleopneumatic suspension on Citroën and being reminded of it again, I had probably come to terms with yet another mildly dispiriting development. What surprises me is being surprised all over again.

With customers uninterested in engineering and ride quality, and PSA uninterested in their brands’ values, there was no other way this was going to play out. That said, it was up to PSA to develop the technology and to educate their customers by reminding them of the USP. Is it really impossible to do that now?

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

2 thoughts on “Is This News?”

  1. I’m so fond of saying how I no longer give a toss about Citroen’s fate that you might surmise that I protest too much and that there is still a glimmer of care in me. No there isn’t, and it does probably dates back to when I read that Citroen were dumping oleopneumatics. Not that anything I read about the set-up in the current C5 makes me feel that current Citroen engineers even understand why they created the system in the first place, but I was greatly impressed by the quality of a Series 1 C5 I travelled in a while ago.

    As you mentioned recently, Richard, there’s no reason why a hypothetical Citroen, unfettered by Peugeot’s fanatical conservatism, would actually be using hydraulic fluid today – it might well have progressed to better things, though the Reuters puff about other adaptive suspension systems superiority needs qualifying.

    But, Citroen aren’t moving on to better things. They are just saving money. The irony was that Peugeot were once masters of conventional springing. And so were Citroen – after the takeover, they initially adapted their philosophy of how a car should ride and handle very well using Peugeot’s off the shelf parts. But now their suspensions are just ordinary.

    Rather sweetly, a petition was started 18 months ago to get M.Tavares to change his mind. I haven’t signed it, and in fact only 5,513 people seem to have at the time of writing, so I guess I’m not the only one to give up on Citroen.Here’s a hypothetical quote :

    “Tavares has made it clear that there are now other car manufacturers that can do just as well,” one of the sources said. “Making Peugeots costs a lot for not much benefit, hence the decision to buy in Hyundais and stick a lion on the front.”

  2. Sean. I’d be glad if I could say the same as you in your first paragraph. I haven’t come that far yet, despite all the disappointments.

    One sign of resignation is certainly that I didn’t bother to sign the petition you mentioned. My GS has HP suspension and it will keep it.

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