“When you do everything right but too late, you do it all wrong. Before reaching a dead end, PSA decided to forge a partnership with a manufacturer [General Motors] that I don’t consider to be among the industry’s leaders of the pack. Overall, I think there is a lack of ambition [when it comes to product] from the French manufacturers.”
Given how much love there is in certain sections of TTAC for PSA products – the Citroen C6, for example – this quote seems like a dagger in the heart for some readers. I profess a profound affection for the C6, the DS range and even newer Peugeots like the 208 and 508. Renault’s lineup, particularly the Renaultsport cars, are undeniably enticing and I one day hope to be the world’s preeminent scholar of Dacia’s impact on the auto industry.
Viewed through a North American lens (i.e. the grass is greener on the Continent), I can’t say I find French cars to lack ambition. On the contrary, I find their styling and packing quite bold and innovative. I dare anyone not to look at the C6 above and be dumbstruck by its elegance. But there’s the undeniable fact that French cars are non-entities in virtually every market save for France and Iran (where Peugeot is a big player).
Morin cites the lack of powerful engines as a reason for the decline of French cars and their inability to maintain a premium position, but French cars have never been about big power. The Renaultsport lineup is consistently praised by the enthusiast press, and is popular enough that when Renault’s lineup was all but eliminated in the UK to make way for Dacia, the Renaultsport cars were spared the executioner’s axe due to their strong sales.
And then, Morin hits on what may be the ultimate reason behind the decline of French cars relative to the competition
Year after year, the gap widens between German and French car manufacturers. Germans, just like the Japanese, always deliver better cars to market. They are really passionate about cars and they are focused on improving everything about their cars from one generation to the next. When you get in an Audi A1, it is exceptionally refined for such a small car and it echoes the premium-ness of the bigger A6 or A8. While German CEOs are real ‘car guys,’ in France, many people thought that being a wise and talented executive was enough to be successful in the automotive business. It proved wrong sometimes. This lack of obsession is the main difference between France and Germany. I think that being too disconnected from the product is a problem.
Stop me if you’ve heard that before.