Old Wine In A New Bottle? Or Old Wine In An Old Bottle?

Our good friends at Automotive News Europe have interviewed Citroen’s CEO, Linda Jackson: expect more Cactussy Citroens.

Design-wise that C-pillar is absurd. The stuff that looks like it might be glass isn´t. Outward visibility is still actually very good and the slim b-pillars are excellent. Those rear windows don´t wind down, however.
Citroen’s template for more Citroens.

Here is the article’s intro: “The C4 Cactus has been a sales winner. Citroen has sold 90,000 C4 Cactus models since its debut last year and the car was awarded the World Car Design of the Year at the New York auto show in April. Citroen CEO Linda Jackson wants to channel the quirky compact hatchback’s success into the rest of the brand’s lineup. Jackson explained how in an interview with Automotive News Europe correspondent Nick Gibbs.” I recommend you read the rest of the article yourself. Click on the link above or this or this.

Or this.

The core of Jackson’s idea is that since Citroen have sold incredible numbers of the Cactus, the idea should be expanded to other models. The main elements of the Cactus formula are the quirky design, the useful technology and a third thing I can’t remember.

On the one hand, Citroen’s current styling theme is as memorable as a ball of mozzarella. Like it or not, the Cactus does have a kind of form language that stands out. It’s a pity its main feature is the sloppy handling of shutlines and oxymoronic use of mock-glass and, of course, rubber bumps down the side.

So, imagine that Citroen want to design a new car: are they going to give it all these features and hope for the best? In a few years these Cactus features are going to be even more familiar than they are now. And I can’t see the bumps being applied to another series of cars, not ones with any level of seriousness.

I think that Citroen have been looking at the way Fiat have taken the 500 formula and, well, applied it to a lot of cars. This means that Citroen’s big idea to apply a Cactus touch to other cars is not only recycling of one idea, but the recycling of two: Fiat’s design recycling policy. There is the outside chance that Citroen really mean that they plan to have more wilfully different cars than they currently have.

Many of their concept cars have been very worthwhile but none of those sparks of originality have made it to production: the C3 and C4 are truly unmemorable. The C5 dies soon and that’s it. Oh, there’s a rebadged Mitsubishi and a C1 in there somewhere. They desperately need some strong and distinctive designs. I just hope they don’t just think plastering rubber bumps and fake glass constitutes a design strategy for the mid-term.

Author: richard herriott

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

9 thoughts on “Old Wine In A New Bottle? Or Old Wine In An Old Bottle?”

  1. You mention Fiat, Richard, and Linda Jackson is gradually taking over the DTW mantle of ‘The CEO Who Really Doesn’t Get Their Brand’ from Sergio Marchionne. Of course she has been in the motor industry for over 35 years, so she could well be right, but reading the Automotive News piece doesn’t convince.

    No-one outside her circle at Citroen, none of the impressive number of 90,000 Cactus keepers, actually believes there is a ‘Cactus Spirit’. They just like the shape and distinctiveness and price. Apply those quirks to different shapes and the ‘Spirit’ is lost. It just seems that someone at Citroen (Mark Lloyd?) had an idea and everyone decided to run with it, though many of them weren’t quite sure why. So far, they seem to have been lucky, though my own opinion is that the execution has fallen far too short of the original concept.

    But she’s right if she looks to Fiat. Extending the 500 ‘spirit’ has worked for them. The ill-shaped 500L has far better sales figures than the finely designed Multipla. I have no idea why, without resorting to an offensively elitist view of the buying public. Based on that, maybe relaunching the C6, but with airbumps and painted in the colours of citrus fruits, is the right thing.

    I’ve been thinking about the Cactus again recently. I thought I would buy one, until I actually sat in it. Instead I’ve ended up with a Nissan Cube, a car it shares conceptual similarities with. Both cars offer quirkiness combined with a suggestion of practicality. For me, sitting in the Cube, the practicality is more real than in the Cactus, but both underachieve on that level. If I’m forced to justify the Cube over the Cactus, I can for various reasons, but the easiest is that it cost me less than 1/3 of the price of the Citroen.

    But I keep coming back to Linda Jackson’s idea that you can capture ‘fun’ and ‘quirkiness’ and apply it like paint to whatever you wish. No-one back in the days of ‘real Citroens’ sat down and thought that the 2CV, or even the Mehari, were going to be ‘fun’. Or that the Ami was ‘quirky’. Or even that the DS was ‘iconic’. They were just seen as sensible solutions to serious questions and turned out that way.

    Damn, we’re talking about bloody Citroen again!

    1. We should talk about Citroen, Sean. Like Lancia and Alfa Romeo, their plight has become festering sores on our automotive psyche. It’s good for us to get all that bile out of our system. (So to speak).

      It is becoming increasingly difficult to ascertain where the jumper ends and the fun begins. Fiat and Citroen appear to be cross shopping their respective business models, both ineffectually flapping about, looking for a quick and dirty way out of the bind they find themselves inheriting.

      It’s all a bit unseemly really. But desperate times…

  2. Now that’s interesting. She not only gets her brand identity wrong, but even the reasons for the (unanticipated?) success of the only really succesful car in the lineup. Design, comfort and useful technology, really? What has made the Cactus succesful was a combination of reasonable pricing, distinctive looks (ok, I give her the “design”) and, most importantly, low running costs mainly due to quite succesful weight reduction. The last point might as well be a side effect of penny-pinching, but it seems to work nonetheless. The (usually) leadfotted Swiss of radical-mag drove 40.000km with an average of 4.7l/100km (~50mpg) and praised the car to the skies: http://radical-mag.com/erfahrungen/dauertest-citro_n-c4-cactus-_4_-1731/seite_1-2

    If Jackson only took this approach, maybe with a little less penny-pinching and got rid of the inherent cynicism of the car, that would be a valuable contribution to the car world, one with at least mid-term credibility, albeit not one convincing CX-drivers and DS-nostalgics. But that ship sailed long ago anyway.

    1. As with all today’s comments this says even more than my post. You’re quite right about Jackson misdiagnosing the reasons for the Cactus’ success.

    1. In the… err…glove box? See, it opens UPWARD and it has funny dots on it and, err, it’s not even bigger than a usual one, because, see again, small is cute and cute is FUNNY. It’s like that thing on the internet, I think they call it “youtube”. They have little cats and puppies and they are so much FUN to watch. And while I’m on it: WOULD’NT IT BE MUCH MORE FUN TO WRITE EVERYTHING IN CAPITAL LETTERS?

      Oh Linda…

    2. Hey everyone! GUESS WHAT!!!!!? My Bestie just told me that Citroen Cactus is an anagram of CUTE NARCOTICS!!!! Is that weird or what!!!!! Best let Linda know.

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