No one designs cars like the French — though many would say that’s a good thing.
Uniquely styled, mechanically complex, and (sometimes) rewarding to drive, French cars are an experience like no other. Buying a French classic is a bit like being married to a supermodel: They can be very high maintenance, but the rewards are well worth it.
Here are five of the most fantastically French cars you can buy in America.
With the Saab brand now functionally dead, could the next quirky car du jour for individuality-signalling Americans come from France?
All eyes will be on PSA Peugeot Citroen on April 5 as France’s top automaker reveals its new international growth strategy, possibly heralding a return to the long-abandoned U.S. market.
The U.S. and Iran are being looked at as potential export markets, now that PSA’s “Back in the Race” restructuring program has improved the financial fortunes of the once-struggling automaker. (Read More…)
As I exit the sleek, svelte coupe and to buy some ice cream, the car is crackling and popping like a campfire doused. I feel there’s something contradictory about this. After what I did for last hour or so — blasting around back roads at speeds far above socially acceptable levels, manhandling the tiller just to keep it straight under throttle, thundering through hairpin turns and using massive traction provided by a limited-slip diff — I should be doing something manly. Chomping on a fat steak and downing a beer; not licking a sweet cone filled with a frozen, sugared dessert. And the car behind me should be a butch, masculine coupe; not a curvy, chic little Peugeot.
As I wrapped up 2015 last week, I was reminded of my lust for French cars. My look at an inexplicably imported Citroen was the most popular piece I wrote last year, so it’s quite likely there are a few more of you masochists out there.
I also love me some hot hatches. The French know what they are doing with these cars, too, though most would think of the R5 Turbo or perhaps the 205 T16 rally replica rather than a proper front-engine, front drive commuter.
As we’ve reached another arbitrary point in our laps around the sun, we can look at importing a new batch of otherwise-unavailable cars under the 25-year rule.
There was a time when Peugeots— mostly 504s but the occasional 404 as well— were quite common in American self-service junkyards. Back in the early 1990s, when I owned a free 504, you could count on finding junkyard parts at every good-sized U-Wrench-It in Northern California, and as recently as the late 2000s I found the occasional 504 and even this 404. Nowadays, though, all you’re going to see is 505s and 405s, from the final years of Peugeot’s North American presence, and they’re sufficiently rare that we’ve seen just this 405 in this series prior to today. However, a few 505s managed to soldier on for a couple decades after Peugeot fled back across the Atlantic (or at least managed to survive in storage for that time), and I found this ’86 in a San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard earlier this year. (Read More…)
On this day in 1991, Peugeot officially announced its exit from the U.S. market.
For a man who once ran the fourth biggest car company in France, behind Citroën, Renault and Peugeot, an automobile manufacturer who produced motorcars designed by Ettore Bugatti and others in partnership with Henry Ford, Emile Mathis is relatively unknown today. Though he made many thousands of cars, ironically he’s better known today because of a car of his that never got to production. (Read More…)
PSA confirmed that former Renault COO Carlos Tavares will take over the reins starting January 1st. Tavares assumes the role at a fortunate point in time for PSA: an alliance with Chinese car maker Dongfeng is underway, and Tavares’ predecessor, Philippe Varin, has already completed the difficult task of closing factories and cutting thousands of jobs, a difficult task in a country like France.
Now, Tavares will be tasked with helping PSA turn things around, with a slate of new product, a leaner organization and reorganized brand structure. Despite Varin laying much of the groundwork for a potentially revitalized PSA, Tavares could end up in the right place at the right time – able to fulfill his dream of running a car company, while presiding over a successful turnaround.
Peugeot gave up on the North American market after the 1991 model year, thanks to poor sales of their new 405. I haven’t seen one of these cars on the street for at least 15 years, and junkyard sightings have been correspondingly rare. When I spotted this car at a Northern California self-serve yard a couple months back, it took me a moment to figure out what it was. (Read More…)
TTAC alum Justin Berkowitz, over at Car and Driver, reports that a government crackdown on tax cheats has resulted in the Italian market for Italian supercars tanking. Ferrari sales went down 50% from 2011 to 2012. Maserati’s Italian sales have dropped 80% since 2009. Lamborghini is apparently selling no more than five cars a month in all of their home country.
The fate of PSA and the Algerian people has been intertwined for decades. The group’s Aulnay plant, which is due to close, was originally staffed by immigrants from North Africa, lured by the promise of a better life and secure jobs in France. And while Peugeot sales withered in France, the brand has been traditionally strong in North Africa, with 2011 bringing a 93 percent increase in sales for Peugeot.
But Algeria’s push for a domestic car industry doesn’t seem to include PSA. Arch-rival Renault is due to set up a factory in the country, but PSA has apparently rejected overtures from the French government to take a stake in the ailing car maker.
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.
“When you do everything right but too late, you do it all wrong. Before reaching a dead end, PSA decided to forge a partnership with a manufacturer [General Motors] that I don’t consider to be among the industry’s leaders of the pack. Overall, I think there is a lack of ambition [when it comes to product] from the French manufacturers.”
–Thierry Morin, former CEO of Valeo
It’s been a long time coming, but PSA has finally done it; the parent company of Peugeot and Citroen is cutting 8,000 jobs and closing an assembly plant outside Paris, as the carmaker tries to cope with a sagging market and excess capacity.
Francois Hollande has officially been sworn in as France’s new head of state, and as expected, his official car is a Citroen DS5 Hybrid4. But his predecessor may have one-upped the upstart Socialist with a choice ride of his own.