Theme : Evolution – When Genes Mutate

We go back to a time before fun was a 24/7 obligation

Image : citroenet.org
Image : citroenet.org

It’s near midnight early in 1955 in a nondescript French suburb. The scene is an office, deserted except for one man at a drawing board. There is a sudden flash of green light.

André Lefèbvre (for it is he) : What was that?

Linda Jackson (for it is she) : Hello André. I’m Linda. Don’t stand there looking gobsmacked. You’re French aren’t you? Don’t we shake hands?

Of course, my apologies Madame … ouch!

Oops! Sorry André, couldn’t resist. Electric handshake! You’ve got to have a bit of fun now and then. So, this is the famous Bureau d’Études? I must say, it’s a bit disappointing. Bit scuzzy really.

It is where we work. We just need the basics. The richness is in our minds.

Oh dear, it’s true what I’ve read about you. Sounds like you’ve spent a bit too much time with your Existentialist pals on the Left Bank. Anyway, I wasn’t knocking your workplace. It just looks a bit on the cheap side – Carlos would love it.

Who are you?

I’m your boss. Or rather I would be if you’d lived long enough.

But you are a woman. And you’re wearing trousers.

Oh, get over it André. They told me you were a blue-sky thinker. Look, you know that film with Arnie in it where he comes back from the future to change the past … No, I suppose you don’t. Anyway, I’m from 60 years in the future and I’ve come back to give you a bit of advice for the DS you’re working on.

The DS? That is top secret! What do you know about ….?

I know it’s a bloody pain in the bum, that’s what I know. I’m sick of hearing those initials. Every day someone raps on to me about it.

So you are telling me my DS will be a failure?

I wish! No, it’ll be a frigging icon. We’re talking Top Ten sonny. Number One in some people’s books ……. though I’ve always thought it’s massively over-rated frankly.

So why are you here?

To suggest some changes André. Nothing radical. But just a few tweaks to make it a bit easier for those of us in the future who live in the less rarified atmosphere of the real world to go on selling Citroëns. Oh, and a chance to stick it to Yves and his bloody stand-alone brand into the bargain.

But if my DS is destined to be a success, surely you will have evolved your Citroëns of the future from it. Oh what marvels they must be. Have you dispensed with wheels? Do you perhaps have a picture of a Citroën from 2015?

Yeah .. rather no. Maybe best not go there. Oh, André, André. So naive. You really haven’t a clue about the car business have you? Sure, everyone loves the DS, but it was just too elaborate.

The DS is logical, not elaborate. There is nothing extraneous.

Well, there’s the bouncy suspension thing for a start.

Hydropneumatics?

Whatever. You just don’t need them. My engineers say that you can get just as good results with the usual gubbins. Why make it so difficult just for the sake of it?

It is not for the sake of it. It is a well considered technical solution to give a civilised and comfortable ride, combined with fine roadholding and very safe handling. If it is not relevant for your future, I can only assume that your roads must all be smooth and perfect and the drivers better.

Well, not quite, but our research shows that most the punters can’t tell the difference. Anyway, they don’t care about all that tech stuff, they just want to enjoy the ownership experience, they want a bit of fun. You remember fun, don’t you André?

We are talking about a metal construction weighing 1300 kilograms capable of travelling at a speed of maybe 140 kilometres per hour. That is a serious piece of engineering, not a dance hall on wheels.

Oh ‘dance hall’, listen to you André. Look, all I’m asking you to do is give us a bit of help for the future. I just want you to make a few changes to help us out shifting metal down the line.

Such as?

Well, after you’ve ditched the hydrothingy suspension ..

But …

Hear me out André. After you’ve done that, have a word with your stylist guys about the … styling.

Stylist? Do you mean Bertoni?

Yes, either of them, Tony or Bert, just tell them to make it less …. less … clever. Don’t try so hard. It just shows the rest of us up. Put a bigger grille on to show corporate identity. And those froggy eyes…

The headlamps. You want them to go?

Oh no, make them look more froggy. Do frogs have eyelashes? Anyway, give the front a happyface. Trust me, people will love it. It’ll be fun. I might even buy an old one myself for weekends – as if, with Carlos on my case all the time. Look, I’ve brought some sketch ideas for the rest of the car that I had Mark work up. What do you think?

It looks like a Renault Frégate, or maybe a British Hillman.

Bingo! Exactly! You’re getting there. People like what they know, with maybe just a little twist. No-one likes a smartarse André. Remember that. Anyway, I’ve got to go. I’m off back to Nineteen Forty something to have a word with the guy who did the 2CV

That would be me.

Really! I’d never have guessed that, Mr Serious. The 2CV’s very different isn’t it? It’s such a giggle. Such fun. It’s given us loads of great ideas. We’re working on a cheapo hatchback that a Chinese company make and rebodying it with a corrugated bonnet and painting it bright green. It’s a real scream. We’re calling it Too See Vee. Geddit? Anyway, no use talking to you about it in 1955. Au Reservoir André. See you later .. I mean earlier. Another handshake? Oh, I see you’re a fast learner. Byeee!!!

DS Prototype

10 thoughts on “Theme : Evolution – When Genes Mutate”

    1. SV. The worst bit is that I wrote this 2 days ago, before I saw Richard’s piece about Citroen using a French microcar as the basis for a new Mehari. I thought the bit about rebodying a Chinese car was a bit of OTT satire. As they say, you couldn’t make it up.

  1. I have a theory that when a company gets weak, incompetent people work their way in and up the corporate ladder, unhindered by talented people. Jackson and Tavares would not go over in many other firms. They are where they are because no one was good enough to stop them.

  2. Much has been made about Jackson being a woman in a high position in the motor industry which, unfortunately, is still a justified matter of comment in 2015. For me, it’s irrelevant that she’s a woman, but very relevant that she isn’t French. The motor industry is multi-national and my own workplace has people from many countries and both sexes who are judged on their abilities alone, and is all the better for that. However we have seen the humiliating sight of both Peugeot and Citroen in recent years trying so, so hard to look ‘German’. That is stupid, since they will never do that as well as Germans. I can’t help but think that a bit of rational national pride at the top of Citroen would be good.

    I also note that, although she has been in the motor industry for most (all?) her working life, she is a graduate MBA. Real German companies are often led by engineers, and it shows. If any company was crying out for a sympathetic engineer to run it, that was Citroen. God, here I am banging on about Citroen again. I’m off to pick up my Nissan.

  3. That’s so good that Tavares and Jackson should read it.
    Would they understand? I have my doubts…

    1. PS: It’s a perfect example for the difference between “fun” and actual sense of humour.

    2. The problem is that if someone means to put “fun” into something, you usually smell a rat. That holds true not only for cars, bat all other kinds of products as well as culture, art, gastronomy, or whatever there is. Ironically, the really “fun” things are the ones that are serious, well thought and with a deeper meaning – at least for me. I can see that a majority of people tend to not agree.

  4. I almost start to feel pity for “Linda” and “Carlos” after reading the last few days’ discussions. After all, who of us would want to be in their places and deal with the mess their predecessors have been preparing for them during the last twenty years?
    Their words and deeds speak of pure exasperation.

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