A close shave with the lesser-spotted Citroen Saxo-BIC® edition.
In 1944, two Frenchmen, Marcel Bich and Édouard Buffard set up a business in Clichy to produce writing instruments. In the post-war era, the company prospered and having adapted László Biró’s original design for a ballpoint pen, Bich introduced the mass-produced BIC Cristal in December 1950, quickly becoming a stationary cupboard essential. Such was its impact, commercial success and design influence that in 2001 a BIC Cristal pen was added to the permanent collection of the Department of Architecture and Design at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
In 1973 the company introduced a range of disposable lighters, while two years later BIC launched the one-piece razor. Three staple products; perfect realisations of product design, made in their millions every year, reliable, ubiquitous and disposable. Yet each were masterpieces in their own right, eminently fit for their purpose, used and thoughtlessly discarded by millions around the world every day.
Nobody ever knowingly appended the term, ‘masterpiece of product design’ upon the Citroën Saxo, a car which to this day maintains its death grip on a top three placing of least inspired Citroën-badged model lines ever. This is, to the double chevron’s eternal shame a closely fought and much-disputed contest, and one the author chooses to swerve away from this Sunday, if that’s all the same with you. To be honest, the Saxo is a car your scribe would struggle to document with much by way of insight under normal circumstances, and were it not for a number of small badges appended to its flanks it’s one he would have walked past without a glance.
In 1960, BIC appointed famed commercial graphic artist, Raymond Savignac to create a character with a ballpoint head for its “Nouvelle Bille” (new ballpoint) advertising campaign. This cartoonesque image of a boy placed next to the letters B-I-C on an orange background has remained the company’s official trademark ever since.
So to see these logos appended to the side of an unprepossessing (French-registered) Saxo came something of a surprise – especially in this Irish coastal enclave. In 2016, DTW curated (okay, that’s probably dignifying matters a touch) a theme on the subject of special editions, one which brought forth a number of oddities and outliers from the realms of automotive embellishment, but I have to say, despite the PSA group’s propensity for obscure product endorsements, this struck me as particularly left of field.
But then when you’re in the business of pushing tin, or plastic in the case of the French stationery giant, you employ whatever marketing levers are at your disposal. Mind you, as special editions go, this is one of the more subtle of the breed, the sole external identifiers being a series of discreet BIC logos here and there, some of which looked more like something the owner knocked up themselves, to be frank.
Inside, the cabin was enhanced with yellow seat piping, and rather more distinctively, a similarly hued gearlever knob, although given the fact that BIC’s signature colour is somewhat further up the RGB colour scale, one has to wonder about PSA’s commitment to the stationer’s cause in this instance. Half hearted is a term that immediately jumps to mind.
One has to assume this was a French market-specific edition, so not only is this Saxo a curiosity, but a fairly intrepid one, having made the land and sea crossing to this draughty isle. What is unclear however is how much a few corporate logos, some brightly coloured interior detailing and (one imagines) a few extra features were likely to sway prospective customers in its native land – after all the Saxo was most likely a car that was purchased purely on price and proximity to a friendly service agent.
BIC ‘s history of sponsorship includes a successful and (dare I use the term?) iconic professional cycling team (Eddie Mercx rode for them), but to my knowledge, the Saxo appears to have been their solitary foray into the automotive arena. Perhaps they got their fingers burned? However, on this basis, one is tempted to suggest they might wish to stick with what they’re good at.