US is missing out: Citroën brand

Logo CITROEN 05.05 MODIF + REPPROCHESContinuing a series I began last year, I’ll look at different cars sold in worldwide marketplaces that I think US customers would like. This week the focus is on Citroën, one of the oldest and most venerable european car brands, founded in 1919 by André-Gustave Citroën. Over the subsequent almost-century, Citroën acquired a reputation for producing cars that are beautiful and innovative: it built the first unibody car, the first mass-produced front wheel-drive car, the first hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension, the first swiveling headlamps… the list goes on. And while today’s marketplace has eroded some of Citroën’s idiosyncratic spirit, it continues to make cars that are very distinct from it competitors.

Previous US is missing out columns:

Here are the main three reasons why I think US customers would love the Citroën brand:

1.     Styling

After going through a low period in the 1980s and 1990s, Citroën rediscovered its design mojo in the early 2000s, and now produces cars that are distinctively styled and stand out from a marketplace full of bland designs. While carmakers with distinctive languages often struggle to translate a look that fits great on a large car to its smaller models (think Alfa Romeo, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan), Citroën’s design language looks great on small and large cars alike. In addition, while other carmakers pursue harder-edged shapes on their cars, Citroën makes their cars voluptuous (by mass-market standards) and gives them distinctive features, such as stacked headlamps, interesting side-window treatments, integrated roof-rails etc.

2.    Focus on comfort and user-friendliness

In Europe, Citroën’s heartland, more and more brands are succumbing to customers’ desire for quasi-sporty cars (I say desire, because most customers don’t actually want to sacrifice comfort for sportiness, they just want the image of sportiness). Not so Citroën, which unabashedly sets its cars up to deliver the maximum comfort and ease of driving. These values are greatly appreciated by US customers, testimony to which is the success of brands such as Toyota, Chevrolet, or Buick. What’s more, this focus does not come at the expense of character, which Citroën cars have spades of.

3.    Innovative engineering

Citroën aficionados may bemoan the fact that the brand no longer employs some of the innovations its once pioneered, such as the hydropneumatic suspension or fixed-hub steering wheel. I feel, however, that this is a sign of a mature brand – it now achieves similar levels of comfort using standard suspensions and deft tuning, while the fixed-hub steering wheel was a question to an answer nobody asked. Instead, Citroën focuses on bringing innovation to the market where it matters for consumers: in lightweight construction (the crossover C4 Cactus weighs less than 2,200 lbs), by offering large windscreens and moon roofs in most of its cars (way before Tesla X got there), or by minimizing interior clutter (see the C4 Cactus’s interior below).

Citroën C4 Cactus interior
Citroën C4 Cactus interior
  1. I can imagine reasons 2 and 3, but not the first one. Looking at the most popular cars in the US you can’t say the average American wants a distinctive and creative car. The C5 would probably be too much already let alone the C4 Cactus or new C3.

  2. I have to disagree slightly about Citroen’s 80s: the ’84 BX and 89 XM are remarkable cars. And the current cars are exercises in style over substance.,The C4 has no strong character, either to look at or drive. I’ve tested it and found it unrelievedly without personality.
    The C1 has nice upholstery and little more:
    The Picasso’s interfaces are appalling:
    Perhaps the C6 was interesting but marred by weight and shoddy detailing.
    So, I have to disagree a bit on this!

  3. Also: the Mk1 C5 isn’t called the C-Funf for nothing.
    When’s my first comment going to be moderated, please?

  4. The only cars that Citroen might be able to sell in the US are the China only C6, DS5 sedan and DS6 SUV, and even still, they might need to outsource some bigger engines. Americans are just now getting their heads around downsizing, but i’m still pretty sure that a ( US ) midsized car with a 1.6L engine would boggle their minds.

    The C3 would be on the verge of underpowered ( to them ) even with the 110hp engine, and the Cactus would be unsellable, because it doesn’t come with a proper automatic gearbox.

    1. Yes, PSA Group should focus on the introduction of DS in the US. The fast acceptance of Lexus and Infiniti shows new brands have the highest success rate in the States. I think Americans would like a larger DS sedan or SUV.

      1. Introduction to the US with DS3, DS4, DS5? Please don’t be funny. Lexus has started with LS limousine… Sales of big french cars was tragical – they have no chances

      2. If Renault launch the Alpine premium coupe with Mercedes engine or Infinity engine or most powerfull engine i think that will have much more chances in the States but PSA group strategy with DS brand is totally failure.And yes french companies probably never will back in the States because they keep the jobs in France(the most socialistic country(and probably very soon most islamic) in the world after North Korea in the moment).Lexus Infinity and others have a factories in the States!

  5. The French don’t have much experience in the developing of big engines with more that 6 cylinders and large volume with the exception of some racing engines. And I think that is the reason for the inability to compete the germans in the high segments. So their potential to sell cars in the States is relatively small in the premium large-midsized segments!

  6. @Bazooka

    Don’t be an illiterate. I didn’t mention the current models. Or do you think the 3, 4 and 5 are large sedans or SUVs?


    Let’s not forget the French car brands used to be competitors for Rolls-Royce. Long before Hyundai and VW started to produce cars for the people, Renault (e.g. 40CV), Peugeot (e.g. 601) and Citroen (e.g. Rosalie) built cars for the top end of the market. So they already have the knowledge. The socialistic character of France changed the goals of these brands, but that doesn’t mean they’re not capable of building large vehicles with suitable engines. The first engines Rolls-Royce used were made by Renault.

  7. The french ultra communistic terror group killed the ex Renault’s chief in the 80’s for the lost of working places in France.After that Renault leave the US market and the cooperation with AMC-Jeep and now we see what happens with Jeep an ultra progressive brand with growing sales!Renault can sells in the States small and medium cars and SUVs like Kadjar and Captur with great success but where is the Renault’s plants in the States?And Renault have an alliance with Nissan and Infiniti who are in the States now!But i can’t see chances for the PSA group.The only chance for D-Day in the North American market is in the Quebec region.But again the politics of preserving of working places in France is the braking force of that expansion.And the unemployment in France now is 10%+ and in the states the unemployment is 3-4%.Great socialistic logic!

    1. I can’t see the logic in your reasoning. Renault wasn’t successful in the US, because by the time they had a couple of models Americans went back to wanting large cars. Through Renault Jeep was able to grow in Europe. Jeep ultra progressive? I don’t see it. It’s 2016 and they still offer a range of gas-guzzling SUVs without any hybrids or EVs. They profit from the Fiat-based Renegade since compact SUVs have become very popular and the fact Americans still like to drive their own brands. Nationalism is a global issue in the automotive industry. GM would’ve already been bankrupt if not for Obama’s interference. Merkel does the same for German brands. She has received money* from the BMW family to not support more strict rules concerning CO2 emission standards.

      The only way Renault (and PSA Group) can enter the US market is by offering large sedans or SUVs. The new Koleos is considered midsized by Americans so not really an option. Talisman could be the comfortable large sedan Americans love to drive, but its design is probably too much looking at the best selling cars in this segment.


      1. The logic is the fact that without factories and local supporters you can’t be successful in the States!And Renault made the same like Fiat but in the 80’s a merger with a large US manufacturer in the face of AMC-Jeep.And in the 80’s Jeep-AMC had a success in the new then SUV”s segment with Cherokee Hummer and other models but they lost their chances with the withdrawal from the market.Now in the States Renault hasn’t nothing no factory no dealerships no service centers.And the new entry to the US market will be much expensive they must reengineered models to meet the requirements of the US’s authorities and this is a lot of expensive work and almost impossible without engineering and design centers in the States.The first thing which Japanese made in the States was to make the factories and to fabricate japanese cars in the States Fiat also make a colaboration with Chrysler.I don’t think that we must thinking that in the States only massive and powerful cars have a chances for success.The most dynamic growth is in the small SUV segment!And there Renault has a chances now with Captur but reconquering will be a difficult thing!You can’t make a car who will be successful without researching centers in the USA!
        BMW has a designing centers factories and full capacity to make cars who are designed for the US’s market!

  8. @Phil

    Of course facilities would be important for Renault to enter the US market, but I don’t think they’re going to with their partner Nissan already present. When necessary Renault could use Nissan factories. Looking at the alliance it’s clear the French focus more on Europe, South-America and upcoming markets like India and parts of Asia and Nissan focuses more on Japan and North-America.

    For PSA Group there are better chances to start selling cars in the States, because Peugeot, Citroen or DS models would be new for the Americans whereas the Renault Captur for example is a different Nissan Juke.

  9. Yep you are absolutely right with the fact that Renault has more chances with the developed Nissan’s factory and after sales network.I think that Renault must take a large part of the Nissan’s shares and with that will be easy to gain a large part of the US’s market without promoting their own models!But i think that for PSA group will be more difficult they don’t have own network and facilities and also they don’t have the facilities of an other manufacturer to fabricate their models in the States!And i don’t think that DS models is a good weapon to conquer the north american premium segment market!PSA Group haven’t powerful engines for this segment!I think that cars like Pug 2008 (and future models like 3008 and 5008) and Citroen C-Cactus will be much more successful in the small-large SUV segments who in that moment are growing fast!But the attempts to compete in the Premium segments will be a suicide i think!

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