At around the same time Renault introduced the (in my opinion) strikingly handsome and very promising Talisman four-door sedan to replace its struggling Laguna midsized hatchback and station wagon, Citroën CEO Linda Jackson announced that the next generation of its midsized car the C5 will be produced in China and is unlikely to be exported to other parts of the world, including Europe.
According to Jackson, “In China there is clearly a requirement for a C5 segment car, and that is clearly going to be within our product plan. But we need to ask ourselves: Is there opportunity in other regions? I don’t know the answer to that.” That makes perfect sense, considering the company sold just 18.000 units of the model in Europe last year, down from a peak of 145.000 in 2002 with the previous model. Until May, sales are down another 28% this year. Contrastingly, the C5 sold 33.000 units in China last year, where it’s produced since 2010 at the joint venture plant with Dongfeng Motor in Wuhan. 2015 sales are down 22% until May. Jackson didn’t indicate when China sales of the new C5 would start. The current model was introduced in 2008.
What’s clearly missing from this picture is that Citroën should be focusing on finally getting a proper SUV in its line-up, because that’s the way the market is heading right now. The midsized segment is in deep crisis in Europe, and Chinese preferences are shifting from sedans to SUVs at an amazing pace. Meanwhile, Citroën has had an unfortunate history with that body style. Their first attempt was a rebadged Mitsubishi Outlander, named C-Crosser, which looked a bit incoherent with the Citroën-style nose, but a Mitsubishi side profile and rear, and an obviously very Japanese interior. This car was followed up by a clone of the Mitsubishi ASX, the C4 Aircross, which looked a bit less unfortunate, but still didn’t manage to sell anywhere near the volumes of its Japanese original. Should I mention Peugeot made even more horrid copies of both those vehicles as well? They sold even more poorly…
Then Citroën kindly declined Mitsubishi’s offer to copy the new generation Outlander, which they were also developing as a Plug-In Hybrid version. This decision was very understandable from an esthetic point of view, the Outlander wasn’t really going to win any design awards, but thanks to the heavy subsidies European governments have been throwing at EV’s and PHEV’s, the Outlander is enjoying record sales for the nameplate. If only Citroën could have had a piece of that tasty pie….
When the engineers at Citroën finally made a small crossover, the C3-XR, as well as the DS 6 for their premium brand, they developed it for the Chinese market only! “Oops, we forgot to make it adaptable to European regulations as well”. Imagine the facepalm of the new CEO of PSA, Carlos Tavares when he heard this bit of news. Well, at least we have the C4 Cactus in Europe, and it’s selling like hot cakes. It just took me a while to realize they actually meant to market this as a crossover, I initially thought it was just a compact hatchback.
Renault has been equally clumsy with the SUV segment, but have more than made up for it with the Captur small crossover and the brand-new Kadjar midsized crossover, with a little help from their friends at Nissan. Besides focusing on another midsized sedan, Citroën should introduce a proper midsized crossover, like the Aircross concept car as quickly as possible. This kind of vehicle does not only have more potential than a sedan in the European and Chinese markets, but also in other markets where the French have set foot, like Latin America and Russia. When those markets come out of their crises and start to grow again, they will to so at lightning speed and crossovers will be the preferred choice of those buyers as well.