50 Cabinet ministers, judges and high ranking police officials in Israel were offered the choice of a new state car this past summer, and had the option of a BMW 528i or a Citroen C5. 28 of the 50, mostly cabinet ministers, picked the Citroen after a significant public backlash surrounded the BMWs.
With growing social unrest over unaffordable housing prices, picking a $79,000 BMW as one’s taxpayer-funded car would be rather unseemly. Instead, the $46,555 Citroen C5 will be employed by top government officials, including Israel’s chief central banker. But according to Israeli business publication Globes, even the C5 is
“Not the regular Citroen C5 that Israelis buy, but the executive version (which is not sold much in Israel), equipped with all the bells and whistles, including leather seats and a multimedia system, but still a Citroen C5 – a large vehicle with an image of a grey-collar car, and without the pretentiousness of a luxury brand.”
BMW reportedly offered discounts in line with the Citroen’s retail price, but the ensuing backlash led to the overwhelming adoption of the Citroen. During the last round of state car tenders, officials could choose between an Audi A6 and the Skoda Superb, with most choosing the Audi. This time around, an election is coming up sooner rather than later, and public perception matters much more, especially with Israelis caring deeply about “social justice” issues. Not mentioned officially (but felt deeply) was the issue of the appropriateness of taxpayer funded German cars. Skoda seems to get a pass due to the little known Czech-Israel arms connection, and most cabinet ministers had no qualms about the Audis; but there’s a reason Ariel Sharon drove a Volvo and Meir Dagan was loyal to Peugeot.