The Truth About Cars » Citroen The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 20:45:49 +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 Editorial: The Car That Answers Today’s Questions? Tue, 24 Jun 2014 13:58:32 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

Most car advertisements tout the abundance of features that the car offers: big engines, advanced electronics and sexy styling. Not this one.

The Citroen C4 Cactus is, in my opinion, one of the coolest cars on sale today. Yes, it does not make much power, its looks are, well, polarizing (I happen to love it) and it is deliberately spartan.

Sounds a lot like Steve’s famous base model “strippers”, right? Well, this thing is, for lack of a better word, quite chic. A Cactus is cheap in the way that Zara clothing or Ikea furniture is cheap. A base Versa with crank windows is cheap in all the wrong ways.

As many people pointed out, the sheer value of new cars on sale today in the United States means that strippers will never see much success in the market. As commenter Paul wrote

I acknowledge stripper does not equal base, but look at the options list on a totally base Accord LX Sedan with a manual:

Interior Features
Dual-Zone Automatic Climate Control with Air-Filtration System
i-MID with 8-Inch High-Resolution WVGA (800×480) Screen and Customizable Feature Settings
Rearview Camera with Guidelines
Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink®4
SMS Text Message Function5
Power Windows with Auto-Up/Down Driver’s Window
Cruise Control
Illuminated Steering Wheel-Mounted Cruise, Audio, Phone and i-MID Controls
Tilt and Telescopic Steering Column
Map Lights
Fold-Down Rear Seatback with Center Armrest
160-Watt AM/FM/CD Audio System with 4 Speakers
Pandora® Compatibility6
Bluetooth® Streaming Audio4
USB Audio Interface7
MP3/Auxiliary Input Jack
Exterior Temperature Indicator

Thats not a bad list at all.

All this for just $21,995. Phenomenal value by any measure. A base Cactus, on the other hand, starts at $22,000 USD (just under 13,000 GBP). Even a base Nissan Juke in Europe, which retails for similar money, comes with a 1.6L engine making just 94 horsepower.

The point I’m trying to make is that in America, where cars are so comparatively cheap, something like the Cactus would be a non-starter. But in the rest of the world, where cars, as well as parking, fuel, insurance and other associated costs are much higher, it’s easy to see why the answer to today’s questions might be “less is more”.

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PSA To Cut Labor Costs By Moving More Production Out Of France Fri, 23 May 2014 10:00:55 +0000 Citroen_C3_Exclusive

PSA will consolidate their small car production at a factory in Slovakia, as the struggling auto maker looks to cut labor costs and increase margins on small cars.

Reuters and Automotive News Europe report that the next-generation Citroen C3, the brand’s best-selling model, will be built in Slovakia, alongside the C3 Picasso minivan and the Peugeot 208.

Although the 208 and C3 are currently built at PSA’s Poissy plant as well as in Slovakia, moving them eastward would allow PSA to slash their hourly wage costs, from 57 euros an hour in France, down to 15.50 euros in Slovakia. Lowering labor costs is critical for PSA, as it struggles to regain profitability and reap greater margins on their small cars, which are both unprofitable and PSA’s most popular cars.

Closing any French plant will be fraught with difficulty. Complex labor laws and cultural factors will make closing a plant a political nightmare for PSA – but the economics of Europe’s car market can no longer sustain it.

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PSA, Mitsubishi May End EV Partnership Thu, 22 May 2014 04:01:03 +0000 CITROËN_C-ZERO,_2012,_IFEVI

PSA and Mitsubishi may discontinue their electric vehicle partnership in the next 12 months, according to PSA CEO Carlos Tavares.

Speaking to a government body related to economic affairs, Tavares said that PSA would be re-evaluating the arrangement, which has PSA selling the Mitsubishi i-MiEV under the Citroen and Peugeot brands.

According to Reuters, sales of the PSA branded EVs are down dramatically, from a combined 6,222 units in 2013 to 1106 in 2014. Despite this, Tavares cited the strength of the yen as a possible factor for the partnership’s fate.

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Jackson First Female Head Of Citroën In PSA Executive Realignment Thu, 08 May 2014 10:00:13 +0000 Citroen CEO Linda Jackson

Managing director of PSA Peugeot-Citroën’s Citroën UK & Ireland Linda Jackson will now have oversight over the entire Citroën brand as its first-ever female CEO.

Autoblog reports Jackson, who managed the brand’s presence across the Channel since 2010, will take her new role as outgoing CEO Fréderic Banzet takes up a senior position in Peugeot’s holding group Société foncière financière et de participations (FPP). Jackson also brings 35 years of financial and commercial experience in the automotive industry to the table.

Both Jackson and Citroën deputy CEO Yves Bonnefont — who will head the DS diffusion line — will take their new roles June 1, and both will report directly to new PSA CEO Carlos Tavares as members of the automaker’s executive committee. A replacement for Jackson will be announced at a later date.

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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.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail citroen-c4-picasso-10-above citroen-c4-picasso-9-front-static citroen-c4-picasso-8-seats citroen-c4-picasso-7-seats citroen-c4-picasso-6-display citroen-c4-picasso-5-light citroen-c4-picasso-4-dash citroen-c4-picasso-3-interior citroen-c4-picasso-2-rear citroen-c4-picasso-1-front ]]> 19
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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