The Truth About Cars » Citroen The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 18 Apr 2014 11:00:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Citroen Generation Why: How Citroen Is Disrupting The New Car Market By Selling Access, Not Ownership Fri, 21 Mar 2014 13:36:55 +0000 citroen-c4-cactus-30

The new Citroen C4 Cactus is delivering on its promise to offer a C-Segment car for a B-Segment prices, with base versions starting at just under 14,000 euros – by comparison, its sibling, the C4 hatchback (which is more like a Volkswagen Golf, as opposed to the quirky, pseudo-crossover Cactus) starts at 18,850 euros. But the low price of the Cactus isn’t even the big story here. Instead, Citroen appears to be aping the mobile phone industry with two new innovative pricing plans for the Cactus.

According to Automotive News Europe, Citroen will offer two payment plans that are similar to a mobile phone contract. The first is a flat-rate that costs 199 euros per month for 36 months, which includes the payment on a base C4 Cactus, maintenance, insurance and a 45,000 kilometer mileage allowance. Flat-rate plans will also be offered on higher-spec models, with higher monthly payments, and will function similar to a lease. At the end of the term, consumers can walk away from the car, buy it outright or enter into a new lease.

But the more innovative option is the “pay-per-use” scheme being rolled out in select markets like the UK, Spain and Italy. Pay-per-use customers will pay a lower monthly fee than the flat rate, as well as a fee based on mileage – customers could hypothetically pay nothing if the car for the use of the car if it is not driven at all during the monthly payment period, though the basic monthly payment would be billed.

According to Citroen, this plan is intended to capture buyers who favor access to a car rather than owning it outright. Citroen CEO Frederic Banzet explains it in the context of a car sharing service, stating

“There is a portion of the population that is not willing to buy a car, but willing to buy the use of a car…we are proposing a way to only pay for the use of the car, while still having it at your disposal whenever you want it,” 

With Citroen’s plan, users can have their own dedicated form of transportation, while mitigating some of the costs of car ownership that make it unattractive for those who don’t drive often. While car sharing takes care of hassles like parking and fuel costs, the Citroen pay-per-use plan offers a way to have dedicated transportation with minimal financial hassles. By emphasizing access to a car rather than the prospect of being tied to the car via ownership, Citroen is tapping into the heart of a demographic that would like to drive a car and have one at their disposal, but is still understandably wary about the financial commitment that car ownership entails.

According to AN, factors like country-specific legislation, partnering with insurance firms and market demand will be roadblocks for a wider roll-out of pay-per-use contracts. While the first two factors are understandable roadblocks, the pay-per-use plan could become a very popular financing plan for a generation of consumers raised on mobile phones and apprehensive about the automobile.

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Nobody Told Renault That It’s Backwards Day Tue, 18 Feb 2014 16:20:52 +0000 renault-twingo-03-1

Just when it looked like Citroen had a lock on weird, funky French cars, rival Renault has come out swinging with their new Twingo A-Segment car.


Unlike previous Twingos, which had a transverse layout, the new one has a rear-engined, rear-drive setup, like the best Porsches, Fiat 500s and wide-arched Renault hot hatches. TTAC’s Europhiles will be pleased to know that we are actually getting the Twingo, but not in a Renault wrapper – thanks to a platform sharing agreement with Daimler, the Twingo will underpin the next Smart. Meanwhile in Bavaria, a front-drive BMW is coming. Who would have thought?

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Citroen C4 Cactus Ushers In A New Kind Of Low Cost Car Wed, 05 Feb 2014 05:08:17 +0000 Citroen-C4-Cactus-1[3]

TTAC (well, mostly this writer) has been enthusiastic about low cost cars, which are sold in Europe and emerging markets as a kind of no-frills, back-to-basics type of motoring for people who might previously have been able to only afford a knackered used car or something with two wheels. But Citroen – whose parent company PSA has been conspicuously absent from this space – is about introduce a new kind of low-cost car: one that has more emphasis on style, and an even more intense focus on low cost of ownership.

The C4 Cactus, above, is based on the standard Citroen C4. But rather than attempting to compete with higher content C-Segment cars like the VW Golf, the new “C-Line” (of which the Cactus is part of) has been designed for the realities of motoring in urban areas and other less than ideal conditions. Those off-colored bumpy surfaces are actually rubber, and meant to prevent against door dings and scrapes, while the bumpers have what appear to be rubber surfaces as well. In cities like Paris, this is a huge deal – parking by touch is common, and cars get damaged as a result. The rubber surfaces aim to eliminate the need for pricey bodywork.  Inside, the same ethos carries over, with stylish but hard-wearing surfaces and upholstery. Check out that gear selector too. Very simple, but very elegant. How French.

CUV critics, take note. The standard C4 has a regular ride height, but Europeans have become crossover crazy, and the raised ride height will pay dividends in traffic, allowing drivers a better perspective, while adding the requisite style quotient to compete with the Dacia Duster and more upscale rivals like the Rental Captur and Opel Mokka. Powertrains haven’t been announced, but there should be plenty of diesels.

With the Cactus, Citroen is hoping to create an automotive version of a “frugalista” product like Zara clothing – something with sufficient cachet that it can be considered cool, but at a price point that is attractive to mainstream buyers. Perhaps it will precipitate a swing away from the recent “premium” craze. Maybe not, but we can hope.

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The Only ‘Ring Video That Matters: 9:55 In A ’93 Citroën AX 14D Fri, 31 Jan 2014 12:00:53 +0000

AX diesel Nurburgring record lap 9 55 BTG - YouTube
“It took me a lot of time and patience to achieve a ‘Bridge To Gantry’ lap time under 10 minutes during the tourist drive sessions at the Nordschleife. This challenge was definitely for fun but also to prove it could be done with work, tenacity and a bit of madness too… This TUD3 diesel engine is known for its poor reliability and I went through 9 engines and 5 gearboxes!”

We’re all aware by now how far manufactures go to validate their new sports car by posting a timed YouTube video of their prized new toy, worth at least tens of thousands of dollars, barreling down the Nürburgring at Vmax with some hot shoe driver. The ‘Ring time has started to become a regular, though often misguided, benchmark for how capable a car is.

Now, condense all of that determination, prestige and big-money manufacturer support; strip out the money and prestige, and add determined Frenchman with a diesel Citroën as he battles to break the magical 10-minute mark.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The car is a near-stock 1993 Citroën AX 14D, a 1.4L 53hp diesel econobox — momentum car would be an understatement. The only notable modifications are a (presumably) stickier set of front tires, bumped fuel pressure, a strut bar to help prevent the tired chassis from twisting further,  an aluminum intake off the larger 1.5L 15D motor to clear the strut bar, and finally some modest weight reduction.

It took seven years and a fair amount of Citroën parts to get it. The result, though, is one tenacious driver who truly knows the car he’s driving. Look at the visually calm, but mechanically quick shifts. The shifter has enough play that he starts throwing it well before ratcheting on and off the clutch. Always driving with absolute confidence, even in the last “hour” of video when the power steering pump starts to fight him from heat (You can hear the pump whine as he fights the wheel on corner exit).

He writes, “Racing is a state of mind,” as he closes the YouTube description of the run. Perfect.

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Citroën Bestows First Premium DS Model Upon China Wed, 25 Dec 2013 00:53:35 +0000 2014 Citroën DS 5LS 04
Unveiled at a special event in Paris last week, Citroën’s DS 5LS is the French automaker’s first premium variant of the DS sub-brand. Don’t expect to park this one at the Louvre, however; the DS 5LS is destined solely for the Chinese market.

The 5LS will be the second DS model built at Citroën’s new factory in Shenzhen after the DS5, and will be followed by a China-exclusive SUV and the new DS3 later on in 2014, as well as a larger executive sedan based on the DS9 concept in 2015.

Unlike its hot-hatch brethren, the traditional sedan was made with the Chinese market (and German competitors, such as the Audi A3 Saloon and Mercedes-Benz CLA) in mind. Thus, it measures 185 inches with a 106-inch wheelbase — perfect for party members being chauffeured from Bejing to Macau for a bit of gambling — has a 16-cubic foot trunk, and the interior is filled with opulent materials and high-tech goodies including reversing camera, massaging seats, and air purification.

Under the hood, the front wheels will be driven by either a 1.6-liter turbo providing around 160 to 200 horsepower or a 132-horsepower VTi, with power directed by a six-speed automatic transmission in the 1.6-liter options.

The DS sub-brand aims to move 200,000 units by 2015, along with bringing its home factory up to full capacity. Fifty DS Stores are also planned to open in the largest cities in China in an effort to drive more interest in the 5LS and subsequent models.

The 5LS will make its home market debut during the 2014 Beijing Auto Show this coming April.

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Myths and Legends: Citroën XM Sat, 30 Nov 2013 14:00:22 +0000


There isn’t many weirder and more wonderful car in the world than a classic Citroën. Beginning with the “Goddess”, the famous and unique Citroën DS, they combine out-of-the-box technical solutions with quaint but gorgeous design. When the “déesse” arrived in 1955, it looked like something from another galaxy – and drove like that, too. The magnificent SM grand tourer, conceived in cooperation with Maserati added speed and glamour to the formula. And when the big CX replaced the venerable DS, it was still an aerodynamic fastback in a world full of boxy sedans, it still glided over the road like some eerie hovercraft, and with the DIRAVI steering and mushroom brake pedal, it provided a driving experience like nothing else. .

But for now, let’s focus on the redheaded step-child of the Citroën family, the XM. Introduced in 1989, it’s currently in the lowest part of the depreciation curve, loved only by hardcore Citroën enthusiasts. Because of the Citroën’s terrible reputation for reliability, especially when it comes to the unique hydropneumatic suspension, the average examples can be had for €1,000-1,500. And with the proliferation of large hatchbacks in 1980s and 1990s, it doesn’t even look that strange. It’s still unconventional, and it’s the kind of design you love more the more you look at it, but for average person, it’s just an old car.


Which makes it a perfect vehicle for finding out what that whole “Citroën legend” is all about. Were French onto something with their hydropneumatic suspensions, strange power steering systems and other stuff? Was it an engineering dead end, or shall we be sad that automotive world lost something of its diversity, when Citroën started making more “normal” cars?

In the XM, you can see the Citroën’s weirdness without the mythical aura surrounding its predecessors. I had an opportunity to spend some quality time with a nicely preserved example of the most desirable version of the XM – the 3.0 V6 24V with a five-speed manual transmission, in the highest Exclusive spec. This combination should make it almost into a sports sedan in its day and age – 200 horsepower was still a big deal in 1990s, especially in Europe. And with the full leather interior, power everything, AC and other goodies, and especially with the famed hydropneumatic suspension, it should be also supremely comfortable.


But the first thing you notice when you place yourself in sizeable, leather-clad chair, isn’t how comfortable it is – although it really is nice. No, the first impression is of unusually low hipline – it is especially noticeable when you transfer from any kind of modern car, but even most other 1980s-1990s luxurious cars feel decidedly “bunker-like” compared to the XM. You sit quite high, looking down on the dash, and with wonderful view around, thanks to the slim pillars. It really doesn’t feel like a sporty, luxurious sedan usually does, but it’s not a bad thing. It’s just different.

And that’s good, as other stuff is dreadfully conventional. The steering wheel is round, with several spokes. Pedals are in the foot well, and all look and work like, well, car pedals. The shifter is on the center console, you need to depress clutch to shift and the shift pattern is conventional. Even the stalks and buttons are normal. If you hoped for some Citroën craziness, like clutchless manual transmission, or a mushroom instead of a brake pedal you’ll be disappointed. Probably the strangest detail in all the cabin is the anti-theft device keyboard, lidded like it should really be used for launcing ICBMs (or putting up white flags). Not enough, Citroën. Not enough.


But then you start moving, and you instantly realize this car’s got balls. Green balls, all six of them. They serve some function in the hydropneumatic suspension, either being reservoirs for Liquide Hydraulique Minéral, or a mixture of vampire blood, gargoyle sweat and crushed dragon claws. Either way, it should result in a ride that’s compliant when you want to relax, and sporty when the computer recognizes you want to go fast. This is the difference from older Citroëns, which were usually just soft, although eerily stable.

According to the owner’s words, this example had a case of bad balls, with the middle ones not working exactly like they should I was told that if 100% fit, the car would be more compliant, although it still wouldn’t offer that cloud-like ride the older CX can muster.

The suspension was still strangely stable, not leaning into corners or during braking and largely ignoring the road undulations, but the secondary ride quality was a bit lacking – I could still feel the ruts and potholes in the road, although the sound was maybe more intrusive than actual movement. As it was, it rode like a really well-sorted car on a steel-sprung suspension with small wheels and tall tires. For real verdict on the unique comfort of Citroën suspensions, you will have to wait for the CX review later in the series.


But the Hydractiv suspension is about more than just a comfy ride. It can make itself stiff when needed, not allowing the car to lean into turns. At the photo venue, I had to repeatedly go up the hill with some quite slow but flowing corners and nice road surface, before I could turn around and return to the dam. And with each go, I was confident to push a bit faster, eventually going really quick. And the experience is hard to describe – for lack of better words, I would say that XM drives like in a videogame. With the car hunched to the ground, the body lean is almost absent, removing one important impression of speed and cornering. And then there’s the DIRASS power steering – a modernized version of famous DIRAVI. It is speed-sensitive, getting progressively heavier the faster you go, but there’s absolutely no feel in the helm. I suspect that going for the limits of grip could be a rather unpleasant experience, as the only way to tell you’re past the limit is the sound of tires screeching, but up to some 7 or 8 tenths, it’s actually quite good. Not great, not really sporty, but once again, the good kind of strange.


But where the XM really gets to its own is on fast, flowing country roads. It’s too large and classy for backroad fun, but on faster ones, it manages to be very quick without really trying, nicely masking the real speed. You can just imagine yourself as a French industry captain, or maybe some high bureaucrat, in a hurry for some meeting somewhere, or just going to check out his domain.

The XM is truly unlike any other car. Large and comfortable on one hand, quick and even a bit sporty on other. Classy and stylish, used by industry captains, ministers and presidents, yet hugely practical with the hatchback trunk. Understated, yet unique in its design.


Myth or Legend?
Legend. It wasn’t as revolutionary as the DS, or as quirky as the CX, but it was unique, and in many ways, it’s the last of the breed.

Do I need to drive it?
Absolutely, no matter whether you’ve driven a hydropneumatic Citroën before. It can be a good start, or a variation on well-known theme.

Should I buy it?
Well, in US, you can’t, so the question is pointless. But if you can, and if you don’t mind fixing stuff (and have a reliable transportation), go for it. It’s a wonderful car.


Photo by Jiří Klimeš

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PSA, Dongfeng Said To Be Exploring A Partnership Wed, 18 Sep 2013 17:22:07 +0000 Peugeot_RCZ_a_St_Trond

PSA, parent company of Peugeot and Citroen, is said to be exploring a partnership with China’s Dongfeng, as Peugeot looks for ways to strengthen itself amid weak sales and a perpetually sputtering European car market.

A number of solutions are being proposed, with France’s La Tribune claiming that a capital increase (with Dongfeng providing cash in exchange for equity), as well as an emerging market joint venture where Dongfeng would also be holding much of the equity, with Peugeot getting the financial resources it needs to expand in the developing world.

Complicating matters is the brand’s alliance with General Motors. GM has a 7 percent stake in PSA and is seen within the company as a key to helping PSA pull through the European crisis, where overcapacity and a need for significant economies of scale are hurting smaller players like PSA. But PSA also wants to follow the lead of rival Renault-Nissan, which has aggressively expanded in emerging markets with Dacia (a runaway success) and now Datsun. Europe is considered a mature market, and emerging markets are one of the only growth sectors left for an established auto maker like PSA (especially given that a North American expansion is off the table, even though it is also a strong market for automobiles).

Currently, the Peugeot family holds roughly 25 percent of PSA’s shares, but any deal with Dongfeng could see them lose their stake – an unthinkable occurrence in past eras.

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Bark’s Bites: The Jump(y)in’ Blues, Part One Tue, 20 Aug 2013 15:30:06 +0000 jumpy3

As is surely the case for many of TTAC’s readers, cars aren’t my only passion in life. Early on in my college and young adult life, I spent many nights in the addictive limelight that only belongs to the performing musician. Being a saxophonist gave me a sort of versatility that not many other musicians had-R&B band one night, Ska/Punk the next, Jazz the next, and so on.

But the one music that has stayed consistent with me throughout my life has been the Blues. The Blues is present in all forms of American music-it’s the foundation of Rock and Roll, Country, Jazz…everything. One could make the argument that the Blues is America’s Classical music-much like the classical music of Europe, it’s based on folk tunes that have been passed down from generation to generation aurally, and it’s totally unique from region to region. Mississippi, New Orleans, Kansas City, Chicago. They each have their own brand of Blues that a true connoisseur can recognize immediately.

Even as a young man, I was drawn to the Blues because of the stories it tells. It was once said of Charlie Parker that he frequently listened to country music, often crying as he absorbed the woes of the songs. The Blues-REAL blues, mind you, not the co-opted electric music that can be heard in nearly every city in the world, but the genuine article- has that same power.

I was also extremely fortunate when I was just nineteen to have been asked by a friend to read a baritone saxophone part on a recording session with a twenty-five year old Blues singer/guitar player named Sean Carney. Sean came from a long line of musicians; the Carney name is well known and respected throughout Ohio and the midwest. The alliance I formed with Sean during that recording session and the gigs that followed has always been a unique and powerful one. Sean went on the win the International Blues Challenge and the Albert King award in 2007, and has been touring the world ever since.

Needless to say, I have had a certain amount of envy, and perhaps even jealousy of Sean’s ability to “live the dream,” as aspiring musicians say. “Living the dream” means that you don’t have to have a day job-that you entirely support yourself through your music. As music became his career, it became my hobby. We stayed in touch over the years, playing a gig or two along the way together if he needed a saxophonist, and I moved on in my career as well.

Then my phone rang one day early this year. Well, not really-it buzzed. And not with a phone call-with a Facebook message from Sean Carney that contained an offer to play several festival and club dates in Europe I’M SORRY DID THAT SAY EUROPE? I hadn’t been to Europe in nearly two decades. I nearly broke the Gorilla Glass on my iPhone replying as quickly as possible as I could to say YES. The details on these things can always be worked out later.

As is typical with the life of a true Bluesman, the details had yet to really be worked out several months later as I boarded my series of flights that would end in Brussels, Belgium. Somebody would be picking me up at the airport-it might be Sean, it might be somebody from the European band he worked with, it might be somebody from the staff from the first festival gig. Who knows. When one accepts a Blues gig, one must let go of the sense that one has in the “real world” that things must go according to some sort of plan, because they virtually never do. Invariably, the location is wrong, the time is wrong, the date is wrong…nobody in the history of the Blues has ever had a gig where everything went according to plan.

Of course, when I arrived at the Belgian airport, my bag was the last one off of the carousel, and my connecting flight from Rome already been delayed. As I put my Bam saxophone case over my shoulder and walked out into the arrival area, I quickly scanned the crowd that stood there beyond the gates, looking for “Bark M.” on one of the tablets being held by the dozens of awaiting chauffeurs. No dice…and then I spotted Sean, looking just like he’d been awarded the role of Blues guitarist by Central Casting-salt and pepper swept back hair, wayfarer sunglasses, silver chain, and blue jeans.


We walked over to a coffee shop inside the airport where the members of Sean’s backing band, the French Blues Explosion, awaited- Sam “Mister Tchang” Tchang on guitar and vocals, Fred Jouglas on bass, and Pascal Delmas on the drums. I was genuinely excited to play with these guys, having listened to their latest recording online. Sam was a master showman, a guitarist in the true tradition of the blues and a fine singer. Fred was laid back, a man of few words and many funky bass lines. Pascal was the brains of the operation and a swinging drummer, to boot.

We had about an hour’s drive to our first gig, a Blues festival in Hamme, Belgium. Pascal led us to the parking garage and to our chariot for the week-a six-speed manual Citroen Jumpy van. My two passions of Cars and Blues had just merged in an incredibly awesome way. The Jumpy was of the post-2006 refresh variety with a 2.0 liter engine and about 100,000 kilometers on the clock. Did I mention that it was a six-speed manual?


It’s a good thing I liked the Jumpy, because I was about to spend a lot of time in it over the next week, and in very close quarters with my musical colleagues. In addition to Sean and the French Blues Explosion, we were also picking up Mississippi bluesman Terry “Harmonica” Bean when we got to Hamme. So, to recap, that’s six bluesmen, two guitars, a bass, a saxophone, a drumset, and four amplifiers in a minivan. This was starting to remind me of why I quit touring back in 2005-and I was eight years younger then.

Upon leaving the airport in Belgium, I was hit with a bit of automotive xenoshock. I’m extremely used to being able to identify every vehicle on the road without much thought. My brain was assaulted with an endless parade of Renault, Peugot, and Citroen vehicles, almost all small-engined hatches, and virtually indistinguishable to the American eye. To help our American readers understand exactly what this is like, let me put together a quick list of some of the vehicles I did NOT see during my eight days in Europe:

Ford Mustang
Chevrolet Camaro
Chevrolet Corvette
Ford F-150
Chevrolet Silverado
Honda Accord
Toyota Camry
Nissan Altima
Ford Fusion
Chrysler 200
Chevrolet Malibu
Chevrolet Impala
Hyundai Sonata

In other words, I saw virtually none of the top-selling cars in America. It wasn’t just a different continent- it was a flat-out different automotive planet. To my European and musical friends that I was with, it was no big deal. To a car lover, it was both exciting and overwhelming.

I also began to learn a few things about driving in Europe, which I’ll cover in Part 2.

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PSA Peugeot Citroen Wins EU Approval For 7 Billion Euro Loan From French Government Wed, 31 Jul 2013 12:00:07 +0000 9968658-1366914703465

Europe’s second biggest automaker, PSA Peugeot Citroen, has gotten approval from the European Union for the French government to guarantee $9.28 billion (7 billion Euros) in bonds to provide Banque PSA Finance, the car maker’s finance arm, with funds so they can sell cars on credit at competitive interest rates.

“We have arrived at a formula which allows PSA to restructure in accordance with clear limits, reducing to a minimum the damaging effects for competitors who have not received support from public funding,” said Joaquin Almunia, EU Competition Commissioner, in a written statement. “This is a balanced result which offers the PSA group the chance to make a new start on a sound basis.”

The bonds helps Peugeot keep down borrowing costs, a vital ingredient in offering loans competitive with the financing deals offered by companies like Volkswagen, Europe’s biggest automaker.

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PSA’s Financing Unit Set To Win EU Approval For State Aid By Next Week Thu, 25 Jul 2013 12:30:24 +0000 PSA Peugeot

A $9.25 billion (€7B) loan guarantee from the French national government for the Banque PSA Finance arm of PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, Europe’s second largest car company, will likely gain approval from European Union regulators next week, according to sources cited by Reuters and Bloomberg.

The guarantee is aimed at ensuring the carmaker’s viability by allowing it to offer competitive financing rates to car buyers. The EU Commission is still in talks with PSA over their restructuring plan which would cut 11,200 jobs and close the Citroen plant at Aulnay, outside of Paris.

Peugeot’s automotive unit burned through 3 billion euros ($3.96B)  in cash last year. Bloomberg reports that the French automaker is in discussions with banks on how to put its financial house in order, with options including selling off a stake in Banque PSA Finance or other assets to increase its capital.

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PSA, GM Discussing A Return For Peugeot And Citroen Products In The USA Wed, 10 Jul 2013 13:50:10 +0000 Citroën_Jumpy_Kombi_front_20110109

No, the headline is not just empty click-bait. According to La TribuneGM and PSA are looking at bringing some current Peugeot and Citroen products to America. The only catch is that they’d be commercial vans.

The Citroen Jumpy and Peugeot Expert, the two vans in question, are currently built in a joint venture with Fiat due to expire in 2017. PSA is looking for a replacement solution, and with GM currently buying vans from Nissan (their NV vans are going to be sold as Chevrolets), it would be advantageous for GM to take advantage of their alliance with PSA and get something out of the deal.

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Peugeot Family Willing To Relinquish Control Of PSA To GM Thu, 27 Jun 2013 15:35:11 +0000 peugeot1

Mired in the same overcapacity crisis as the rest of Europe’s auto makers, the founding family of PSA is reportedly willing to give up control of the company that owns Peugeot and Citroen in exchange for a fresh infusion of capital from GM, which currently owns 7 percent of PSA.

Terms of the deal are unclear, but PSA is sustaining heavy losses as European car sales have tanked. Unlike arch rival Renault, PSA has no low cost cars to help attract emerging market consumers and value-oriented buyers in Europe.

The Peugeot family still holds a 25 percent stake in the company and retains roughly 38 percent of the voting rights. But the family is reportedly comfortable with the idea of giving up control, according to a Reuters source

“GM faces the same overcapacity situation with Opel, and that’s why PSA is trying to convince them to merge the two,” said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are confidential. “The Peugeot family has now accepted that they’ll lose control, so this is no longer an issue.”

The news outlet reports that nothing concrete would happen until after September’s German elections. Any deal with Peugeot would undoubtedly result in major job losses and factory closures in France, Germany or another European country, which makes any tie-up extremely politically sensitive. But given the prospect of GM absorbing yet another ailing European brand, deep cuts will be an inevitable part of the consolidation of PSA.

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Citroen Readies Premium Small SUV For China Thu, 11 Apr 2013 14:36:49 +0000

The rest of the world is becoming just as crossover obsessed as North America, and in the premium segment, a crossover is an absolute must for any car maker. PSA’s most recent round of efforts have been pretty poor, using the Mitsubishi Outlander as a starting point, but for their upscale DS brand, PSA is starting from scratch.

The DS Wild Rubis may have a silly name, but the concept previews what will be the flagship of Citroen’s premium DS sub-brand in China. Meant to compete against the BMW X3 and Audi Q5, the Wild Rubis is a plug-in hybrid SUV that will be slightly longer and wider than the Q5.

Curiously, the Wild Rubis will not use the EMP2 modular platform, but instead use the old Citroen C5 underpinnings – not only does this save costs for the Chinese market, but Citroen’s famous air suspension  hydro-pneumatic suspension can also be employed. The Wild Rubis will be just the first of an onslaught of new DS products. Next up will be a large car meant to replace the C6, based on the DS Numero 9 concept, and then a smaller sedan. Hopefully this design theme extends to production cars. The C6 was a tough act to follow, but the design team seems to be capable of creating faithful successors.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail citroen-ds-wild-rubis-10 citroen-ds-wild-rubis-9 citroen-ds-wild-rubis-8 citroen-ds-wild-rubis-7 citroen-ds-wild-rubis-6 citroen-ds-wild-rubis-5 citroen-ds-wild-rubis-4 citroen-ds-wild-rubis-3 citroen-ds-wild-rubis-2 Citroen DS Wild Rubis. Photo courtesy AutoExpress. ]]> 11
The Most Important French Car Of The Decade Is A Minivan Tue, 02 Apr 2013 12:00:33 +0000

The MPV segment, so popular in Europe, was basically invented by the French. The Renault Espace, the grandfather of the modern minivan, was originally supposed to be a Peugeot, until PSA deemed it too expensive and sold it to Renault. Nearly two decades later, Renault disrupted the segment again with their compact Scenic minivan, which spawned imitators from nearly every single brand.

Citroen’s newest MPV, the C4 Picasso, is a massively important car for PSA and the French car industry. It’s not as sexy as the Renaultsport or Alpine products coming down the pipeline, nor does it have the enthusiast-weirdo cachet of previous PSA products. But this car will be one of the products that determines PSA’s future. Having missed the boat on making a push in the low-cost segment, the C4 and the Peugeot 208 will define the next generation of PSA products, as the two brands attempt a convoluted re-positioning in the marketplace.

The Picasso is the first car to ride on PSA’s new EMP2 modular architecture. The Picasso will be chock full of PSA’s latest tech, from blind spot cameras to massive touchscreens to adaptive cruise control. New diesel powertrains will offer in excess of 70 mpg on the European cycle and C02 emissions on par with a Toyota Prius; not hugely exciting, but if you ever hail a cab in Paris, you’ll probably be riding in one of these.

PSA desperately needs to C4 to succeed. As the test best for their next generation architecture, the future of PSA hangs in the balance. Strong sales will mean a whole new generation of EMP2 based vehicles. Failure could entail another bailout or worse.

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PSA’s Brand Strategy: Let’s Make A Peugeot Sandwich Thu, 14 Mar 2013 14:35:06 +0000

PSA announced their renewed brand strategy for their Peugeot and Citroen lines, and the situation has finally been clarified after frequent back and forth reports that contradicted one another. It turns out that PSA will employ a three-tier approach that is equally confusing, with Citroen as the lowest tier with Peugeot on top. But then there’s also Citroen’s DS line, which is supposed to be upscale itself. Confused? So are we.

A hand cheat sheet provided by PSA to Automotive News Europe outlines the “values” supposedly embodied by both Citroen and Peugeot.

PSA CEO Philippe Varin recently outlined the new product strategies for Peugeot and Citroen like this:
Citroen stands for:
Fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly cars
Easy-to-use, less sophisticated technology
Purist design
Peugeot stands for:
Perceived quality and reliability
Elegant, dynamic designs that stand out from the crowd 
Innovative driving experience and driving pleasure

PSA was adamant that Citroen was not going to become a low-cost brand, but the next generation of vehicles will be positioned slightly lower than the current range. Does that mean the Hydramatic suspension, one of the brand’s hallmarks, will be gone? Let’s hope not. What will be happening is that Citroen vehicles will be positioned as “cheap premium” (whatever that means), with Peugeot being “premium” and to top it all off, Citroen’s DS line will be positioned as an even more premium range relative to Peugeot, if Automotive News has it right, which is difficult to ascertain, since PSA seems to change its positioning depending on what day of the week it is.

Further complicating matters is Peugeot’s schizophrenic offerings, including the low-cost 301 sedan which will be sold in emerging markets as a premium vehicle relative to the other low-cost competitors, if you buy into PSA’s spin. It’s a tough one to swallow, considering that Renault has poured so much time and effort into Dacia for the precise reason that the low-cost and premium brands should not mix.

Keen French car observers will also note that the brand values espoused here are backwards. Traditionally, Citroen had the elegant, dynamic designs and wild new technologies, while Peugeots were rugged and simple enough to endear themselves to the pied-noirs of Africa. Outside of France and Africa, Peugeot’s profile is basically nil – if the Citroen C6′s poor sales were an indication of how poorly premium French cars were received  then the Peugeot 607 large sedan may have been the only offering to fare even worse, ending up largely in the hands of cab drivers.

The most succinct analysis of it all comes from Fitch Ratings, which noted

“We believe this strategy makes sense overall but carries substantial execution risk and could take many years to bear fruit. In particular, we are concerned that the existence of both entry-level/basic models and aspiring higher-end products within the two brands will not be easily understood and accepted by customers.”



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PSA Wants GM To Pitch In On Compressed Air Hybrid Fri, 08 Mar 2013 08:31:16 +0000

Last month, we suggested that PSA’s new compressed air hybrid system was a good way for PSA to drum up some investment into its ailing new car business. Now comes word that PSA wants to talk to other car makers, including alliance partner General Motors, about pooling the R&D cost of the new tech.

Given that PSA spent an estimated $4 billion on R&D in 2011, the $650 million cost to develop the new technology is a relatively modest sum. Yet PSA is still looking for a partner (or partners) to help bear the burden. PSA is looking to get cars using the technology, dubbed HybridAir, on the road by 2016, a very short timeframe for a new technology, especially one as radical as this.

PSA is also looking for a partner for the technology in China. Meanwhile, GM issued a statement claiming that the new hybrid system “is not part of the alliance discussions”. Bosch, which has assisted PSA with the initial development of HybridAir, previously warned of “unspecified technical challenges” with the system, throwing further doubt on the viability of the technology as a real automotive solution. Evidently, it doesn’t seem to be doing much to bring some badly needed money in either.

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The End Of The French Car Thu, 07 Mar 2013 14:30:04 +0000

A bit of light reading for everyone wishing they were in Geneva, munching on some pain au chocolat while paying $8 for a Nespresso. CAR magazine contributor Stephen Bayley has a very entertaining essay entitled “The End of the French Car“, in which he laments the demise of the quirky, compact French automobile.

Bayley’s thesis is that once France lost it’s cultural capital, the cars began their inevitable decline

When did the decline start ?  Back in those first paragraph student days, I could sit on a train for thirty-six hours to Madrid and have for company only my French philosophers and the latest copy of Auto Journal with all its fabulous news of new French cars with oleo-pneumatic suspension and strange seating arrangements.  Who can say whether it was cause or effect, but when French culture as a whole lost its authority, the cars became boring.  Who reads Sartre today ?  Exactly.

Sure, the death of the Citroen C6 was a bit of a turning point; the large French luxury sedan with superb ride quality and great design (and admittedly, not much else) had finally lost any relevance in the wider marketplace. But I’m not so sure that it’s time to bury French cars for good.

The Renault 4 and Citroen 2CV that Bayley venerates are no longer with us, but in their place, we have the Dacia. Not as quirky or memorable, sure, but designed to fulfill the same promise of cheap transportation for those who may not have been able to afford a new car. The Peugeot 205 GTI may be dead, but just around the corner, there is a Peugeot 208 Hybrid with a two-cylinder engine that will hit 60 mph in about 8 seconds (roughly the same as a 205 GTI, maybe a bit quicker, depending on who you ask) and weighs a couple hundred pounds less than the 205.  If anything, the demise of French cars won’t come from a lack of competent product, but market forces that have little to do with the cars themselves.

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France Hikes Taxes On Diesel Fuel, Auto Makers Protest Thu, 28 Feb 2013 16:53:19 +0000

The French government is planning on raising taxes on diesel fuel, branding it a “health issue”, much to the chagrin of consumers and the country’s auto industry.

France’s environment minister, Delphine Bartho, told French radio (via Bloomberg) that a study by the WHO showed that diesel fumes presented a significant health hazard, and the French government would move to raise taxes on the fuel to help soften demand.

“It’s inescapable,” Batho told RMC radio today when asked whether lower taxes paid on diesel compared with gasoline should be eliminated. “I am favorable. It’s a public health issue.”

Currently, diesel is about 20 cents cheaper per liter than gasoline, but France’s new tax regimen would bring diesel costs in line with gasoline. Originally, diesel was taxed at a favorable rate due to its use in farm equipment and heavy-duty vehicles, but the lower cost led to a massive shift towards diesel powered passenger cars. 73 percent of cars sold in France last year came with a diesel engine, compared to 55 percent on average in Western Europe.

Renault and PSA have been less than enthused with the new tax hikes. PSA is one of the world’s largest producers of diesel engines, and had criticized the studies cited by the French government, with PSA’s Director of R&D, William Faury, stating that they ignored modern particulate-filter diesel engines in favor of old-style engines.

The problem is not the diesel engines on sale now, but the pre-filter era diesels. Current Euro 5 standards for diesel engines are exceedingly tough, and PSA already has diesel powered models capable of emitting a Prius-like 100 grams of CO2 per km. PSA’s aggregate CO2 emissions level for its fleet of cars is already the lowest in Europe, at 122.5 grams per kilometer, just ahead of Toyota. And thanks to the upcoming Euro 6 emissions standards, that number should fall, as diesel NOx emissions are required to be aligned with those of gasoline engines.

While the government may be genuinely concerned about the health of its citizens, it’s hard not to see this as another cynical political calculation, similar to the now shelved plans for extremely high tax rates on France’s top earners. A hallmark of ineffective government is the use of dramatic, headline grabbing solutions, which are little more than PR stunts and rarely mistaken for solid governance. Despite the posturing of France’s current administration. A La Tribune columnist noted that the Environment minister herself admitted that diesel engines from a decade prior are the real problem, since they can emit as much as 30 times more pollution than the current crop of diesels.

To add to the matter, both PSA and Renault are in a precarious position. TTAC readers will know that the French government has been marshaled to help provide de facto bailouts to PSA and quell the ongoing labor disputes between the French auto makers and the myriad of unions entrenched in their factories. With Europe’s new car market already hanging by a thread, the diesel tax comes at a particularly bad time for France’s domestic auto industry.


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Renault, PSA Face Unprofitable Paradox Wed, 20 Feb 2013 17:16:51 +0000

Prevailing wisdom today holds that small cars, manufactured in developed economies are some of the least profitable cars in existence. So why do companies like Peugeot, Citroen and Renault persist in producing them?

In article in La Tribune (France’s leading business paper) explains why. Once upon a time, when Giscard d’Estaing ruled and the Fifth Republic was just being digested after a spicy summer of 1968, France decided to tax big cars, in the name of Libertéégalité, fraternité. Since the biggest market for French cars was France, Renault, Citroen and Peugeot decided to switch to producing small cars – the Citroen SM was a footnote, rather than a mainstay of France’s auto industry, despite what the buff books tell us.

Up until recently, things were tries bien. Renault, for example, sold nearly half a millio Clio and Twingo models in 2012 alone. Not bad for a company that mostly plays in Europe, but these cars are also not so profitable. Renault is able to produce these cars in Turkey and Slovenia respectively (with some Clio production still kept in France) which takes away some of the sting.

Over at PSA, things are much more dire. Small cars (B and C segment, for clarification’s sake) make up about 45 percent of their sales, but a good chunk of them are built in France. Workers there earn 35 euros an hour, compared to 22 in Spain and just 10 per hour in Slovakia. PSA’s CEO told La Tribune that a new Peugeot 208 built in Slovakia would save an astonishing 700 euros per car, along with the contentious labor negotiations that go hand in hand with French organized labor. At Renault, the cost difference is even more staggering, with 1300 euros saved on the Clio when it’s built in Turkey. Any surprise that since 2005, both companies have cut their domestic production in half? The strong social safety net and egalitarian society designed to protect the workers has ultimately resulted in a contribution to their declining fortunes.

Ironically, the small car segment, for all the talk about shrinking profits, is growing in France. Registrations have continuously increased since 2007, from 45 percent of all cars to 53 percent in 2012. But the only way for car companies to make any money is to wither away domestic production in favor of the Dacia approach; old technology, no frills packaging and ultra-low cost production in developing economies. So far, only Renault has this capability. PSA is trying it’s hand at the Fiat and Mini approach, positioning Peugeot and the Citroen DS line as “premium” small cars, in the hopes of squeezing some more margin from their products. Given the increasing stratification in the European car market (where only the high and low ends can make any money) it is a risky approach. But not everyone wants to drive a Dacia, and not everyone can afford a Benz.

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PSA Still Burning Cash, Banque PSA Downgraded To Junk Fri, 15 Feb 2013 19:11:08 +0000

Despite a plan for a financial turnaround by 2015, PSA projected a cash burn rate as much as 1.5 billion euros  for 2013. Meanwhile, PSA’s finance arm had their bonds downgraded to junk status.

The downgrading of Banque PSA’s bonds by Standard & Poor’s is yet another blow for the French automaker, which reported record losses this week. One positive development for PSA was a labor agreement with workers at the troubled Aulnay plant, which allowed PSA to start winding down production ahead of schedule.

Meanwhile, French paper La Tribune shed some more light on PSA’s new brand strategy going forward. Initial reports suggested that Peugeot would move upscale, with Citroen remaining in its current place, but La Tribune now claims that

Citroën and should move at least partially to models simpler, more affordable, while its DS range must occupy the high ground. Peugeot remains in place somewhere between the two

We’ll have the story straight as soon as possible. But as Jimmy Buffet famously said, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, and in France, the work day is definitely over right now.

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Peugeot To Move “Upscale”, PSA Remains Without Low-Cost Brand Thu, 14 Feb 2013 13:30:30 +0000

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. Unlike the poorly interpreted plans for Mazda to be a “premium” brand, PSA really is planning to take Peugeot upscale, despite having zero brand equity, an upscale Citroen line and zero exposure to the profit center of the future, low-cost cars.

The announcement came as PSA announced a record $6.7 billion loss for 2012, compared with a $588 million profit in 2011. PSA also laid out its plans for a recovery, including the baffling upscale move for the quality-plagued Peugeot brand.

Automotive News reported on the developments, quoting PSA CEO Philippe Varin

“The Peugeot brand will move toward a more modern image,” led by the 208 subcompact’s high-performance GTI version and the new 2008 SUV-styled crossover, Varin said. “In 2013, the positioning of our brands will be supported by a very rich range of products and 17 vehicle launches,” he said.

Despite being fetishized by North American euro-philes, Peugeot is on the cusp of irrelevancy in the European car market. While they have had some success with their B and C-segment offerings, the market for D-segment and above sedans has been moribund since Mitterand was in the Élysée Palace, serving mostly as minicabs in third-rate British towns and transportation for the bad guys in Ronin. The notion of Peugeot as a premium brand is laughable, and complicated even further by their intra-group rival Citroen.

At the turn of the decade, Citroen launched their DS line of premium hatchbacks, models which won critical acclaim but have still yet to set the sales charts on fire (the DS5, above, is the ride of choice for France’s Prime Minister). That will leave PSA with two brands which are aspiring to play in the premium segment, but without any sort of strategy for a low-cost brand to be sold both in Europe and developing markets – a strategy that has helped Renault-Nissan reap fat margins even in the current lean times. Unbelievably  this strategy is a central tenet of PSA’s recovery plan, which was demanded in exchange for government help for its financing unit.

Among the other stipulations include targeting for 50 percent of its vehicles to be sold outside Europe by 2015 (a tough one, in light of having no low-cost product to sell in developing markets), doubling production volumes via its alliance with GM, and achieving a 13 percent market share in a market that PSA assumes will hold at 2012 levels of car sales. In the words of one Credit Suisse analyst ”Both look unlikely now”. Given that the writing is on the wall for a continued decline in European new car sales it’s impossible to fathom how PSA could present these plans with a straight face.

But for a company like PSA, 2015 is a long way away. Let’s see if they make it through 2013 without becoming partially state owned, and then take it from there.

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How Close Are We To A PSA Bailout? Mon, 11 Feb 2013 16:03:28 +0000

It’s safe to say that 2012 was PSA’s annus horriblus. From job cuts to a shaky alliance with GM to bond rating downgrades, everything that could have gone wrong for Peugeot-Citroen ended up happening. And 2013 may not be much better, as the prospect of a bailout looks ever more like reality.

PSA is still faced with the structural problems that dog pretty much every car maker in Europe; a weak economy, rampant overcapacity and a demographic deck stacked against growth in the new car market. Unlike chief rival Renault, PSA has failed to expand its horizons beyond Europe, with little in the way of low cost offerings for emerging markets. On top of that, attempts by PSA at exercising financial prudence, like cutting jobs and closing factories, have been met with outrage in France. A proposed alliance with General Motors has produced little in the way of any tangible results.

The most recent news concerning PSA stems from comments made by French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who denied that there would be a PSA bailout, but admitted that there was a plan in place should the need arise. Technically, there already has been a bailout; back in October, the French government helped arrange a re-financing deal for Banque PSA, the company’s captive lending arm. Since bailing out PSA itself would have been a political nightmare both at home and among the wider EU, a helping hand for Banque PSA was seen as an expedient way to aid PSA.

PSA seemingly kicked off 2013 with a product offensive; an all-new modular platform is said to underpin PSA’s C and D-segment cars, which account for most of their sales, and a new hybrid platform using compressed air promises the usual world-saving spiel that makes dilettante green car fans and government officials go gaga. But these new product plans raised far more questions than they actually solved.

For starters, the new product plans were peculiar in light of the supposed platform sharing and other synergies that GM and PSA touted as benefits of their allance. But that union appears to be as good as dead. While PSA was hoping to leverage GM’s experience in emerging markets like China, GM was apparently looking to use PSA as a dumping ground for its troubled Opel division.

The original GM-PSA platform sharing plans called for a broad range of tie-ups with city cars and compact MPVs, as well as Opel producing PSA’s D-Segment car. Now, PSA will apparently go it alone with a new modular platform called EMP2, which covers the C and D segments, which covers the mid-size and large car, MPV and crossover segments that comprise most of PSA’s range. A modular platform makes sense for Peugeot financially, but it requires a great deal of capital that PSA doesn’t necessarily have.

Even more pie-in-the-sky is the compressed-air-hybrid project. As outlandish as it may be, there appear to be a number of stumbling blocks that make the whole deal look like little more than vaporware. Bosch, PSA’s partner in the compressed air hybrid scheme, noted that “…Unspecified technical challenges have yet to be overcome before a commercial launch…“, despite PSA’s insistence of a 2016 launch date – a relative blip in time in the auto industry.

The answer appears to be lie in the use of these products as a PR pitch for a forthcoming bailout. Industry observers will recall that GM trotted out vehicles like the Volt and the Malibu as justification for its own bailout. In addition, the compressed air hybrid is far less of a moonshot right now than the Volt was in 2008, and PSA’s partnership with Bosch lends the program a certain gravitas. But as it stands, PSA can’t even gain traction with popular products like the 208 B-Segment hatchback – how can they be expected to introduce this kind of technology on such a short timeline?

However, if PSA were to go hat in hand to the French government, they could point to EMP2 and the new compressed air system as evidence that they are well positioned to be competitive in the future. Hybrid sales are up more than 50 percent in Europe, and green issues are still en vogue with a majority of consumers. French President Francois Hollande employs a hybrid Citroen as his official State Car, and the new compressed air hybrid is an important exercise in government relations if PSA is going to get any state assistance. Meanwhile, the first EMP2 product is the Citroen Picasso (above), one of PSA’s few bright spots, and a consistently strong seller in the European MPV segment. Similar to how the Malibu and the Volt represented the here and now and the future for GM, these two will be the emblems of PSA’s immediate recovery and its climb back to relevance in the future. Prototypes of the Picasso have been seen out and about near PSA’s Spanish assembly plants, but the compressed air hybrid isn’t nearly as far along. Rest assured, if it does make it to production, it won’t suffer from anywhere near the same vitriol as the Volt did.


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Is Citroen’s DSX Crossover Our First Look At PSA’s New EMP2-Based Product? Wed, 06 Feb 2013 14:00:07 +0000

China’s love affair with crossovers and PSA’s desire to expand in the country has led to a logical conclusion; why not a crossover for the Citroen DS line, one that PSA is trying to push hard as a premium alternative to the usual upscale offerings?

Sized like a BMW X3, the DSX, as the crossover concept is known, will be built at PSA’s Wuhan, China, factory, and will join two other models (likely large sedans) as part of a DS expansion for China. The big question for us at TTAC is whether the DSX is the first manifestation of the new EMP2 modular platform.

While some outlets suggest that the DSX’s nature as a China-oriented product may mean that it is built off existing technology, TTAC feels that this is an inaccurate prediction. For starters, Wuhan is earmarked for an EMP2 product in 2014. Furthermore, PSA’s current crossover technology is essentially borrowed from Mitsubishi, and can’t even support hybrid technology. A DS5 Hybrid might serve to underpin the DSX, but why launch your next onslaught of product with already dated technology?

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Analysis: PSA Debuts EMP2, Their Own Modular Platform System Thu, 24 Jan 2013 16:24:33 +0000

We at TTAC are very excited by modular platforms, and it has nothing to do with undiagnosed autism spectrum disorders or a lack of interest in the wider world outside autos. Modular platforms are the next great leap forward for auto makers; green cars help save cute animals, and thus get all the attention, but guess what underpins the Nissan Leaf? A version of Renault-Nissan’s B Platform, which underpins everything from the Cube to the Clio to the Sandero.

The driving force behind modular platforms is scale. Auto makers are competing in a global marketplace selling an extremely complex commodity product with high R&D costs and low profit margins. Modular platforms help by creating a standard platform and component kit across a number of model lines, making the car less complex to manufacture and allowing for the platform itself to be amortized across a number of model lines.

One could argue that BMW was one of the pioneers of modular platforms, building the 3, 5 and 7-Series in the familiar “one sausage, many lengths” format that we all know and love (or loathe, depending on how much you emotionally invest yourself in the brand). Recently, Volkswagen has taken modularity to  another level with their MQB platform. Different components can be added or removed depending on the vehicle’s footprint or engine size, but the distance between the front axle and the pedal box remains fixed. This allows VW an unprecedented amount of flexibility to build pretty much every transverse, front-wheel drive vehicle off of one platform, at any of its global factories that is configured to built MQB-based cars. The advantages as far as scale goes are unprecedented.

PSA, the struggling French automaker behind Peugeot and Citroen, has just released their own version of a modular platform, dubbed EMP2, as a means of capitalizing on that trend. From a product standpoint,  EMP2 will cover the C and D segment cars in the PSA range, which are fairly large for Europe, but account for about half of PSA’s sales.Crucially, EMP2 will not be applicable to B segment cars, while VW’s MQB platform will, a major oversight given that PSA relies on markets like Europe, Africa and South America, where B segment cars are most important.

Instead, EMP2 will be the building blocks for vehicles like the Citroen C5 mid-size sedan, the DS4 and DS5 premium hatchbacks and the Peugeot 308 and 508, which compete in the C and D segment respectively. EMP2 will also be used to build station wagons, SUVs (which PSA currently sources from other OEMs) MPV-type vehicles (minivan type cars that are smaller than North American minivans, a popular segment in Europe that PSA has traditionally been an innovation leader) such as the next generation Citroen C4 Picasso and the all-important light commercial vehicle segment.

PSA is touting weight savings of 154 lbs versus outgoing models, with a 22 percent reduction in CO2 emissions thanks to technologies like start-stop systems, electric power steering, lightweight construction materials and low rolling resistance tires. Other advanced features like electronic parking brakes, active aerodynamics and radar-guided cruise control were also touted in a short video released by PSA.

From a manufacturing standpoint, PSA appears to have emulated a number of VW’s innovations with EMP2, while making some interesting advancements. Much like MQB, EMP2 relies on a series of “plug and play” modules, with some interesting differentiations. For example, EMP2 offers two rear suspension options; a beam axle or a multilink independent system can be optioned, depending on whether PSA wants to keep costs down or to provide a superior driving experience. A high or low driving position and a short or long rear section can be substituted, allowing for an easy transition between a passenger car or something like an MPV or commercial vehicle that requires more cargo room and a higher seating position.

Where EMP2 appears to fall flat is in the front section – while MQB offers an exceptional degree of customization up front (with only the one fixed point) it appears that PSA has kept the front section fixed, with various powertrains able to be installed. Given the size and profitability delta between PSA and VW, it’s understandable that PSA would opt for a simpler, less expensive solution, though the importance of scale and flexibility suggests that VW will continue to have the upper hand with MQB. It’s likely that the fixed front section is one of the key stumbling blocks preventing EMP2 from being used as a B-segment platform, since the single fixed point of MQB allows for different wheelbases as well, something EMP2 is not capable of.

From a manufacturing standpoint, PSA has also given up much of the flexibility that Volkswagen enjoys with MQB, in exchange for what is ostensibly a cheaper and less complex architecture. PSA simply does not have the R&D budget and global scale to embark on something as ambitious as MQB, and therefore must make tradeoffs in certain areas. On the other hand, PSA doesn’t require such an overarching modular architecture like VW does, and can tailor its factories to produce popular models that align closely with local tastes (such as high-end crossovers and larger sedans in China, MPVs and C-Segment cars in Europe), whereas Volkswagen must manage multiple brands and product lines across a greater number of markets.

The first EMP2 products will be the Citroen Picasso MPV and the new C-segment Peugeot 308 – which will compete against the MQB-based Golf, as well as its Skoda and SEAT siblings. Worth noting is that both VW and PSA are debuting these products at a time when the mainstream car market is eroding in Europe. The real threat may come from the low-cost entries, specifically Renault’s Dacia line, which offers B and C segment sedans and hatchbacks, as well as compact SUVs and MPVs, at cut-rate prices, with little appreciable difference in quality. While high-content features like start-stop and radar-guided cruise control may be absent, the basic features that many motorists require, like air-conditioning and central locking are still available. And given Europe’s precarious economic state, the price – frequently under 10,000 euro – is right. Meanwhile, Renault, taking advantage of their own modular platform system, is making as much as 9 percent profit on the cars, margins that PSA can only dream of.

Also worth noting is how EMP2 would integrate with any potential GM tie-up. This past summer, plans for a joint Opel/PSA tie-up in the D segment space were discussed, with Opel tapped to build the successor to Citroen’s D-segment entry, the C5. Half a year later, Peugeot is debuting a vision that runs counter to the Opel plan, one which would provide significant cost-savings for both auto makers, despite the seemingly moribund alliance. Clarification from both parties will be required to get a picture of PSA’s future product plans, as well as the strength of the GM-PSA alliance. In addition, this may be a signal regarding PSA’s own lack of faith in Opel, which is in the throes of a near-meltdown financially.



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TTAC Salutes The Citroen C6 – RIP Mon, 03 Dec 2012 15:58:21 +0000

Today is a sad day for TTAC’s French car fans – the last Citroen C6 rolled off the assembly line, ending a proud tradition of French luxury cars that fought a losing battle with the Germans for segment supremacy.

Despite outlasting the dull Peugeot 607 and the quirky Renault Vel Satis, the C6 sold a mere 922 units last year and only 530 year-to-date. According to France’s La Tribune, The BMW 5-Series has outsold the C6 by a nearly 10:1 ratio in its home country, proving that even in France, these cars are a tough sell.

The next big Citroen will be based on the absolutely gorgeous DS concept car – but it won’t be all French. Instead, the new DS will be designed with the all-important Chinese market in mind. It will likely use some kind of hybrid system, akin to the DS5 Hybrid. Rather than being a ponderous, floaty sedan with a serene ride, ample power and bizarrely charming aesthetics, the DS appears to visually ape cars like the Porsche Panamera. Hopefully Citroen won’t try and pull a Cadillac and try and chase German driving dynamics either.


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