Autumn’s in the air, the nights are closing in and it’s really no time to be hanging around graveyards. For one thing, you’ll catch your death…
It’s probably about time I owned up to having a morbid interest in revenants. I know, it’s unedifying at best and possibly illegal, but I really can’t seem to help myself. Time and again I make the same vain promise: no more loitering around dank graveyards, to be escorted home by the local constabulary amid muttered admonitions of ‘not you again?’
But it’s no good, the lure of broken soil and the troubled sleep of the eternal is just too strong. So when I read Autocar’s recent story on Citröen’s plans to retake the large saloon market I saw it simply as a one way ticket to the back seat of a blues and twos Astra.
Anyway, having got the confessional part of the story out of the way, we can proceed. According to last week’s Autocar, having unveiled the recent CXperience concept as a purely speculative design study, Citröen (read PSA) are pivoting on their axis, testing reaction for a new generation of cars to represent Citröen once more at the upper end of the mainstream car market.
They quote Citröen CEO, Linda Jackson who recently told journalists: “We are a mainstream brand but have the ability to overturn the established codes of the mainstream. In fact our customers now expect it. How far can we take that? Can we go high end? I would say yes… but in our own way.” Jackson seems to view the separation of the DS brand from Citröen to offer the chevron a route out of the cheap seats, saying: “It has allowed us to redefine and clarify our aims for the brand with no limits and nothing off limits.”
Reading around this statement, there appears to be a number of discrepancies. Firstly, Jackson’s statement is vague enough to suggest any number of outcomes – a large saloon (or two) being only the least plausible of them. Secondly, it does appear to confirm a growing sense within PSA that for DS and Citröen to both prosper, each must carry no trace (or taint) of the other.
Easy said, lemon difficult to achieve. As we’ve said on Driven to Write until blue in the face, brand Citröen’s potential reachdown is as broad as its reach upwards. It was and remains (to some extent) a classless nameplate – a useful trait, albeit one not greatly appreciated by either market or marketers in our current climate.
Because what this story doesn’t address, even if it contained a scintilla of truth, is the failure of DS to gain a meaningful foothold on the sector of the market to which it is aimed. Can we read a tacit acceptance that DS isn’t working? Perhaps a more meaningful proposition for PSA to pursue now would be to detach DS entirely from its European operations and use it as a Trojan horse into newer, less mature markets like the Far East and potentially, the US?
One would be forgiven for thinking PSA management might have put together a more coherent plan for its three core brands by now, but frankly the signs aren’t promising. Certainly not if you take Jackson’s statement on Citröen’s positioning, beaten within an inch of its life into this catchy tagline: ‘Be different, feel good’. One can only imagine the shattered remains of what was rejected by Citröen’s marketing people in the process to lovingly craft this piece of poetry, which Jackson describes as Citröen’s ‘core message’.
Now I can rationalise with the best of them. Of course this is journalistic joining of the dots, creative mathematics, yet there remains a glimmer – perhaps this time they mean it? Because the primary drawback with being an automotive revenant-chaser isn’t the despair with which one is all too often confronted, it’s the hope.
We all know Citröen isn’t going to make the kind of big saloon that once defined them – if indeed they make one at all. Far more likely will be something along the immediately forgettable lines of the China-only C6 currently on sale. But with each drip of rainwater, I’m back at the graveside, holding numb vigil, awaiting the familiar hand on my collar from the boys in blue.