A Luton Brougham

With Vauxhall’s future under PSA coming under renewed scrutiny, we look back to Luton’s mid-’70s upmarket ambitions.

1976 Vauxhall VX Prestige prototype. Image: droopsnootgroup

As automotive industry analysts ponder the fate of Opel / Vauxhall in the wake of PSA’s takeover, one possible future mapped out involves a shift upmarket. On the face of things, this appears about as likely as PSA getting a sudden rush of blood to the head and starting to take Citroën seriously, but as (im)possible futures go, it may not be entirely unthinkable.

Not everyone in the soothsaying universe seems to Continue reading “A Luton Brougham”

The Embarker Lay Still and Dreamed

Recently we discussed PSA’s mooted plans for their new charge, Adam Opel AG. PSA announced their plans yesterday

You can read coverage here and here and here. For the story direct from the lion’s mouth, you must merely click your mouse here.

As GM Authority dryly note, GM somehow failed to Continue reading “The Embarker Lay Still and Dreamed”

Breakfast, Dinner and Lunch All Over Again

According to Automotive News Europe, Opel will reduce the number of models it sells. You won’t be surprised, will you?

2016 Buick Cascada: Buick

Additionally, purchasing activities will be shared alongside PSA platforms. The Ruesselsheim design and engineering centre will be charged with electrification of PSA vehicles and, finally, Opel will expand into territories that were previously taboo under GM.

The first point can be taken to mean more vehicles like the Crossland which already uses a shared platform with PSA. The bundled purchasing operation probably translates into more parts commonality among which will be engines or eventually electric power trains. Engines are typically a clear generator of brand character (or lack thereof); add characterless electric and hybrid powertrains to the mix and one can see a growing hazard for PSA in meaningless differentiation.

This leads us to the last point: new markets for Opel. Currently Opel is stranded in Europe although some of its output found customers in the US as Buicks (the Insignia, the Cascada and the previous Astra.) So, where will Opel head to now it can compete against GM? North America has been a hard market for PSA to crack. One scenario sees Opel as a “German” brand for PSA to push in the US, as a kind of wolf´s clothing for PSA’s platform sheep. Possible models (or their successors) would be the Astra and Crossland cars. In another scenario, Opel might Continue reading “Breakfast, Dinner and Lunch All Over Again”

DS’ New Horizon

As brand-DS’ pathfinder model becomes available to order, we find ourselves once again asking, what on earth is the distinctive series for?

It’s the Louvre, so it must be art. Image: Evans Halshaw

Yesterday, Autocar reported that PSA’s new DS7 Crossback crossover is now available to order in the UK market, with RHD deliveries starting in early 2018. Pricing ranges from about £28,000 in entry-level Elegance trim to over £43,500 for the highest specification ‘Ultra Prestige’ model. That’s right up there with ‘Premium Luxury’ in the redundant nomenclature stakes wouldn’t you say? Isn’t ‘Prestige’ prestigious enough any more? One could be forgiven for imagining DS’ marketers Continue reading “DS’ New Horizon”

Norfolk Broad

With perhaps the shortest gestation of any production car, 1977’s Chrysler/Talbot Sunbeam personified the term, ‘rush job’ – and it showed. But one variant burned brightly, courtesy of Lotus.

Image: copie-petites-observations-automobile

In 1977, the TV ad-breaks were awash with the mellifluous tones of Petula Clark, exhorting us all to put a Chrysler Sunbeam in our lives. I was around 11 at the time, so there wasn’t much I could do to obey the Surrey songstress’ siren call but since we did have an Avenger parked outside, my level of interest in Linwood’s newest offering was perhaps keener that it might have otherwise have been.

The Sunbeam was the result a neat piece of industrial blackmail on the part of Chrysler UK, the failing former Rootes car business, which under US management had merged with Simca but was struggling with a dated range of cars and a loss making production facility in Scotland making fewer of them than was economical. Faced with the plant’s closure, the UK government agreed to Continue reading “Norfolk Broad”

Little Or No Corrective Action

Earlier this year PSA purchased Opel from General Motors. We discussed how long it would take for Opel´s identity to fade away. Sooner than even I expected.

2017 Opel range, expected mortality: Opel.de

“Peter Fintl is the director of technology and innovation at the German subsidiary of the French development services provider Altran, which works closely with PSA. He has a precise understanding of PSA’s technology strategy.

“PSA doesn’t need Opel’s conventional technology,” Fintl said. “Since both manufacturers are active in the same class, it is likely that the Opel platforms will be gradually decommissioned and PSA technologies introduced.” (Automotive News)  This is excellent timing: “Opel has just invested 210 million euros in a new development and test center for engines and transmissions in Ruesselsheim. The center, which went into operation last October, employs 800 engineers.” Continue reading “Little Or No Corrective Action”

DS – Away With the Fairies

Where now for PSA’s flat-lining DS experiment?

Image: Car magazine

The omens haven’t been good for some time now – oddly enough, it all really started going wrong once PSA decided to separate brand-DS from its Citroën parent. Since then, the descent has been rapid, bruising and ignominious. Despite all three existing DS models receiving expensive facelifts incorporating a new corporate nose, sales have fallen off a cliff. Over the period from January to May of 2017 alone, sales of the entry level (and top-selling) DS3 fell 35.3% to 12,136. Those of the C-segment DS4 contracted 33.4% to 5675 cars, while those of the current range topping DS5 plummeted 42.8% to 2730 units. Continue reading “DS – Away With the Fairies”

Sliding Doors – 2004 Peugeot 1007

The Peugeot 1007 was an abject failure, but could the story have played out differently? Driven to Write gets the popcorn out.

Image: auto-selection

In the 1998 movie of the same name, the eponymous sliding doors were a plot device or portal into an alternative reality – a form of magical thinking akin to the notion that one’s life can turn on a sixpence. On one hand: lose job, meet nice John Hannah on the underground. Romance ensues, as do more plot devices, Get run over by car. (I haven’t seen the film, so I’m paraphrasing here). Continue reading “Sliding Doors – 2004 Peugeot 1007”

Lion of Beauty – 1997 Peugeot 406 Coupé

A Suave Swansong. The 406 Coupé embodied values which had seen a Franco-Italian marriage survive and prosper for a generation. Sadly, it wasn’t to last.

Image: theautoz.com

At some unspecified point during the 1990’s something quite seismic took hold within Automobiles Peugeot. A profound cultural shift which saw a gradual jettisoning of not only the marque’s highly regarded engineering principles but also its reputation for dignified styling. Their long-standing association with carrozzeria Pininfarina was unravelling. PSA President, Jacques Calvet, believed to have been irked by the attention Patrick le Quément’s Billancourt studios were receiving, pressed Peugeot Style Centre chief, Gérard Welter for more visual excitement; a move which saw Welter poach rising star Murat Günak from Mercedes-Benz in 1994. Continue reading “Lion of Beauty – 1997 Peugeot 406 Coupé”

The Great Compression

Opel’s slow walk into the history books, to join Panhard and Saab, has begun. It occurred just as I came to understand what Opel was about.

2017 Opel Insignia Sports Tourer: source
2017 Opel Insignia Grand Sport: source

You can read the technical details here. The important and ominous part is this: “Tavares told his board that PSA would redevelop the core Opel lineup with its own technologies to achieve rapid savings, according to people with knowledge of the matter” (from AN Europe).

While I was reviewing the last generation Opel Astra, I noted that the description of the mechanicals differed little from its peers. So, you might say, where is the great loss? Even if you don’t care for Opel, its absorption into the PSA combine will reduce meaningful competition among the most important classes of cars.

Continue reading “The Great Compression”

Torpedo from the East, Incoming

PSA may purchase Opel. This story has been bubbling for a while and it has bubbled some more, like the sinister upwellings on the surface of a lava pool.

2017 Opel Insignia GS: Opel.de
2017 Opel Insignia GS: Opel.de

The Guardian has reported that PSA would expect rapid savings were they to buy Opel. “Carlos Tavares, the chief executive of PSA, which owns Peugeot, Citroën and DS, said on Thursday morning that adding GM’s German Opel and British Vauxhall brands would attract new customers and generate substantial cost savings. An outline agreement is expected to be announced as soon as next week, before the Geneva motor show starts on 6 March”, wrote the formerly Mancunian paper.

This is bad news for car buyers as Opel models will be subsumed into PSA’s model structure. There is not much tangible difference  Continue reading “Torpedo from the East, Incoming”

Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 2011 Peugeot Hx1

It might look like a stretched Peugeot 308 to you, but this was the finest PSA concept in years.

2011 Peugeot Hx1. Image: zastavki
2011 Peugeot Hx1. Image: zastavki

I’m somewhat amazed I’ve made it so far with this series. I’d expected hoards of irate Citroënistes burning effigies of me for having the nerve to make these (admittedly loose) connections, so either I’m on the right track or I should spend more time looking skywards for falling anvils.

Continue reading “Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 2011 Peugeot Hx1”

Theme: Sudamerica – Ecuador

Before we go any further, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind readers that genuine Panama hats are made in Ecuador.

Big in Ecuador: source
Big in Ecuador: source

And that country is the topic of today’s investigation. The Republic of Ecuador lies on the north-west coast of South-America. Its capital is Quito but the largest city is Guayaquil. About 16 million people live in the country. They drive on the right (where possible) and the economy is dependent on commodities. Vehicle sales were down 30% last year (2015). That’s a big blow for Chevrolet who hold about 50% of the market.

What do they drive? Continue reading “Theme: Sudamerica – Ecuador”

Not For Sale Around Here: 2012 Peugeot 301

The interior materials and colours give away the intended market. Surely this exterior would appeal to a fair few buyers?

2012 Peugeot 301
2012 Peugeot 301

What are those interior materials like? Pale, hard plastics on the door casings and velour upholstery. Nothing about the shapes scared me. With more appropriate trim I don’t see why this couldn’t find customers. Continue reading “Not For Sale Around Here: 2012 Peugeot 301”

Life After Crossovers – PSA Dares to Dream

Everyone’s crazy about crossovers these days. Well okay, maybe not everyone…

Peugeot CEO, Maxime Picat. Image:lepoint.fr
Peugeot CEO, Maxime Picat. Image:lepoint.fr

With the motor industry rapidly coalescing towards crossovers and SUV’s, it’s tempting to view this not so much as a trend but more a new ascendancy. Furthermore, it’s also increasingly difficult to envisage it being a fleeting one. So for those amongst us who don’t relish a world filled with the confounded things, even a lone voice of dissent from within the automotive mainstream sounds a thrillingly heretical note. Continue reading “Life After Crossovers – PSA Dares to Dream”

Coming Back to America? PSA Looks West : 2

Part two: Can PSA really make it in America? Driven to Write continues its investigation.

Image:citroenvie
Image:citroenvie

It is a truth widely acknowledged in crisis management that there are five key steps to corporate recovery. First: change the senior management. Second: rapidly identify and scope the nature of the problem. Third: take action to arrest losses by cutting the cost base. Four: Stabilise the business and five: return to growth. Up to now, PSA’s Carlos Tavares has stuck rigidly to this playbook, ruthlessly extracting cost from the business, yielding financial results that have had the industry’s top analysts patting his head in approval. Not only in regards to profit, but with financial metrics reputedly the envy of its rivals, PSA’s turnaround looks impressive. But stabilising the business is only stage four of the turnaround gameplan, finding growth in a stagnating market is a horse of an entirely different stripe. Continue reading “Coming Back to America? PSA Looks West : 2”

Coming Back to America? PSA Looks West : 1

Part one: Recent reports suggest PSA are considering a return to the US market. Are they out of their minds?

Peugeot had modest US success with the 505 model. Image:productioncars
Peugeot had modest US success with the 505 model. Image:productioncars

If it isn’t chiseled in stone somewhere, it probably should be. Because if you want to make a success of the auto business, you really do need a viable (and profitable) presence in the United States – it’s simply too big, too diverse and too lucrative a market to ignore. Conversely, it’s also amongst the toughest to break into. Casualties are inevitable, even for the more successful entrants; an unintended acceleration issue here, a diesel scandal there, but you only have to track the fortunes of the auto-absentees to understand the price of retrenchment. Continue reading “Coming Back to America? PSA Looks West : 1”

A Quarter Century of the Unexceptional – Citroen ZX

Let’s look back at a quarter of a century of disappointment from Citroen. The ZX is 25 years old today.

1991 Citroen ZX: motorstown.com
1991 Citroen ZX: motorstown.com

Such was the let-down of seeing the first photos of the Citroen ZX that I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing at that moment. You don’t normally remember this kind of thing. If you recall that Citroen’s previous big launch had been the XM, then you can understand the shock of the ZX’s all-round ordinariness. Continue reading “A Quarter Century of the Unexceptional – Citroen ZX”

Diamond Dogs – The Distinctive Series Dissected – Part two

Berstein Research’s Max Warburton recently made some stark observations on brand DS’ prospects which make sober reading for PSA chief, Carlos Tavares. But is he right?

The Divine DS concept at Chantilly Style et Luxe. Image via frenchisgood
The Divine DS concept at Chantilly Style et Luxe. Image via frenchisgood

“Ill-defined, low consumer recognition and highly unlikely to generate shareholder returns”. Not my words, but those of the European industry’s current economic sage. But is Max Warburton being fair? Lets look at the evidence. Take DS’ brand identity. Is it a Citroën, a non-Citroën or an anti-Citroën? Nobody seems to be sure. DS has no visibility in the marketplace – few outside the industry or its followers knows what it is, or what it’s for. The cars themselves offer little to distinguish themselves from cheaper Citroën derivatives, merely fussier styling and a thin veneer of luxury. Neither the DS4 or 5 can be accurately positioned within their segments, being neither fish nor fowl; the DS4 in particular a symphony in pointlessness. Continue reading “Diamond Dogs – The Distinctive Series Dissected – Part two”

Diamond Dogs – The Distinctive Series Dissected

Part one: With the jury on PSA’s luxury line coming to some less than palatable conclusions, is Carlos Tavares in the mood to listen as the DS project sputters and pops.

Image via independent.ie
Image: independent.ie

When PSA launched the DS line in 2009, many observers viewed it as the final throw of the dice for Citroën. Suffocated by a value strategy that saw ever-decreasing returns, the ailing brand icon appeared on its last legs. Critics and Citroënistes alike condemned PSA’s plan as madness, yet early sales both in Europe and latterly China saw many of us eating sizeable chunks of humble tarte. Indeed so bullish was PSA Chairman, Carlos Tavares last year that DS was divorced from Citroën as a stand-alone marque. Continue reading “Diamond Dogs – The Distinctive Series Dissected”

PSA’s Tale of Two Continents

Peugeot/Citroën’s European D-sector sales collapse is not the catastrophe it first appears.

2015 DS5 - image via car24news
2015 DS5 – image via car24news

As we know, the motor industry is riven with contradiction, but nevertheless, some things remain beyond debate. Take the fact that the European mid-sized saloon market has been in serious and (some say) terminal decline since 2007, with sales across the sector falling by half. Yet, with Europe-wide volumes of almost half a million cars last year, there still remains a good deal to play for in what’s left of the segment. This month, PSA Groupe have posted their first profits in three years on the back of vast and painful cost-cutting including the axing of unprofitable models. So today we ask where this hollowing out has left PSA’s mid-sized saloon offerings?  Continue reading “PSA’s Tale of Two Continents”

Theme : Concepts – Yet Another DS Stunner!

Steaming Hot News From Paris!

DSuperficiale

Following on the heels of the Divine, the Paris Salon was today stunned by another offering from PSA’s ambitious DS brand, its latest concept the DSupérficiâle. Originally thought by diehard enthusiasts to be a homage to the D Super, itself the successor to the classic ‘no-frills’ ID19, PSA was anxious to dispel such misconceptions. At the press launch, DS spokesman Jean Conneries, standing in front of a still-shrouded shape, explained the philosophy behind the car.

We are foremost a French brand. We must build on that as the 21st Century progresses. However, in the past we have mistakenly concentrated too much on those aspects of heritage that are specifically Citroën. France has a huge heritage that it has bequeathed the World and foremost in that is philosophy. The philosophy of this car is ….. philosophy itself! Continue reading “Theme : Concepts – Yet Another DS Stunner!”