The fine art of badge-engineering – Franco-Japanese style.
Just as Karl had given life to the patentwagen in 1886, the emergent car industry’s Frankenstein-like adoration brought ever newer machines to market. In turn, ideas became distilled, since begging borrowing or stealing ideas was easier than inventing something from scratch. Financial incentives greased wheels leading to similar, if not identical machines wearing different badges; nothing new under the sun.
Concurrently, French composer, Erik Satie experimented to form three pieces for piano, sharing a common structure and theme. Possibly evolved from the French version of the Greek phrase, gymnopaedia, an annual festival where young men would dance naked, or unarmed. Beautiful, piquant yet melancholic, the Gymnopédies could easily represent the three vehicles that stemmed from one.
Lent et douloureux, et triste and et grave, define all three vehicle versions that stemmed from the new for October 2006, Mitsubishi Outlander. Dropping the first generation’s Japanese moniker, Airtek, the Outlander was based on their GS platform. Peugeot’s insistence on numerical values appeared logical; the anomaly being cousin Citroën. Assumptions the car would arrive christened the C7, the C-Crosser derivation derived from the Frankfurt 2001 shown concept of the same name.
European versions landed the following February powered by a string of engines – the sharing constituent embracing both Volkswagen and PSA-derived motive power.
Plans hatched in Paris during October 2006 alluded to 30,000 sales per year. Considering the PSA group had been watching the nascent four wheel driven niche rise exponentially – with no French input – seems today, as ludicrous as their predictions. Collaboration with Mitsubishi would “prove a win-win” situation; the Japanese now having access to efficient Diesel engines, PSA the four wheel drive knowledge.
Mitsubishi chose Volkswagen’s pumpe-düse two litre engine but even before sale, changed the melody to that of the PSA 2.2 litre, DW12 HDi mill. The French unit developed 156PS, the German only 140PS. Three years later brought along another key change; a 177PS, 2.3 litre 4N14 engine wearing the red diamond, thus concluding the Volkswagen element. PSA, assiduously playing the ivories, highlighted the Particle Emission Filter along with engines which could swallow 30% biodiesel – confirming their world leading clean engines rhetoric.
Those seeking petrol power were served by the Mitsubishi 4B12, 2.4 litre unit, generating 170PS. Torque was an impressive 230Nm. The diesel generating a healthy 150Nm more, along with better consumption figures led to minuscule petrol sales. Transmissions were all six speeds, manual or dual clutch. A fully automatic version was never offered.
Nominally, drive was to the front with on-demand four wheel drive. An electronic locking differential was also available from the dash mounted, circular switch. Road testers suggested farm tracks and loose gravel would cause no fuss. Pulling a heavy trailer across steep terrain would be an altogether different chord. The cars’ general characteristics proved sound for tarmac sojourns. In fact, for a seven seat, load-lugger, the handling received a general thumbs up. One slight thumbs down was only a four star NCAP rating.
All three bodies would initially be built in Japan, the Nagoya plant based in Okazaki, Aichi Perfecture. Dimensionally, to within a few millimetres, the Outlander, C-Crosser and 4007 were identical. Wheelbase being 2,670mm (105”), a width of 1,800mm (71”), topping out at 1,715mm (67”) tall. The vehicles’ length altered by up to ten centimetres; the Citroën measuring 4,645mm (182”) with the Japanese 2010 version up at 4,765mm (182”).
Demand for Mitsubishi’s Lancer forced a re-evaluation regarding production base; from 2008, all Outlanders would now hail from the Nedcar plant, Born, the Netherlands. Bizarrely, both Peugeot and Citroën models would maintain their oriental origins afore being sold in the occident.
Should you, dear reader still be following the musical flow, we must now delve into the musically structural nuances, the cars’ looks, or perhaps more to the point, their differences. The Outlander was handsome enough, if typically straightforward Japanese. Inoffensive yet bland. The French obviously had better things on their mind – perhaps listening to Satie on the beach, imbibing something. Their input therefore was unequivocally minor.
Barring a steering wheel badge or negligible rear end treatments, the front was where it was all (as some might say), at. From André, “An original, expressive front end with dynamic proportions and well balanced proportions.” As a badly played, out-of-tune railway station piano, sadly they continue. “The headlamps that follow the flow of the wheel arches, the expressive chevrons, the beautiful angles.” The prose is Doloureux, painful. At least external colours had jolly names such as Manitoba Grey, Mangaro Brown or Muzzano Blue. You could even spec a beige, dulce leather. Seven spoke Itoka 16” wheels were standard, Sycomore landed at 18” with a crooked horseshoe take.
Sochaux’s frontal treatment was for a more upright, chrome-laden affair with jutting plastic upper chin bumper. One would have to be a Peugeot aficionado c’est formidable to heap affection in its direction. Triste mean ‘sadly’, an apt phrase for a version that falls off the bland scale.
At the rear, some chrome trim fell Citroën’s way but was otherwise identical to its Japanese sibling – and its other cousin, those of salt and pepper mill origins. Gravely forgetting to add a fission of métropolitan was unforgivable. Most vehicles are multinational by nature of components yet allow for varying levels of nationality to shine through. Pas ici.
The only defining factor being the bottom line: the 4007 started at £24,364, rising to £28,234. The Double Chevron actually a soupçon dearer – £24,655 – £28,335 with the Outlander undercutting all at £17,044 rising significantly to £31,029. Value is an arbitrary metric. Used Outlanders of this ilk command decent money. And you last saw either of the others, when?
Decampment of production to Kaluga, Russia in 2011 saw largo sales figures. Combined European totals in five years for the non-French duo being approximately 70,000. Outlander managed an extra 66,000 European sales. The wooden lid slammed shut on the keys in 2012, an international failure.
Making music and cars are closely related. Satie’s work became more popular after his death. The Outlander keeps a steady rhythm. The other two, like the AO key; imperceptible to human ears, unused and forgotten.
A five minute video of a 2CV versus C-Crosser in a field carrying eggs.
Data sources: carsalesbase.com, citroenet.com