Are you confused by, where and how classic Citroëns are preserved in Groupe PSA these days? You are not alone. We received a press release last week from L’Aventure Peugeot Citroën DS announcing a partnership relationship with the CQS Classics group.
For those wondering who and what is CQS Classics group, they are a company located in Tienen, Belgium, that has specialized in high-end restoration of vintage Citroëns for over 20 years.
But here’s where the press release, as most documents we seen from Citroën, L’Aventure Peugeot Citroën DS or PSA for matter, of late gets confusing;
The release states that; “Citroën Heritage has entrusted CQS Classics with certain projects, in particular large restorations on the structure of the cars. Citroën Heritage thus finds in CQS Classics a partner who can increase the capacity of its workshop, while ensuring a high level of quality.”
Ah, but what is Citroën Heritage you ask? Well, it’s part of L’Aventure Peugeot Citroën DS. And here’s how the release defines L’Aventure Peugeot Citroën DS; “Citroën Heritage is part of L’Aventure Peugeot Citroën DS, a 1901 law association whose mission is to preserve, develop and promote the heritage of the PSA Group brands, in France and around the world.”
The release goes on to say that; “Several tests have also taken place for almost two years in order to be able to confer on CQS the designation of privileged partner of Citroën Heritage.” Presumably this is Citroën’s way to keep the Conservatoire, (on the site of the now defunct Aulnay-sous-Bois factory just north of Paris, close to Charles De Gaulle airport), open and offload some operational costs;
“CQS took over Citrostory, a restoration company located in Aulnay-sous-Bois, which kept the cars of the Citroën Conservatory for years. They also chose to merge the activities of 2CV Mehari Factory and CQS. These expansions were the occasion to change its name and that is how CQS Belgium became CQS Classics — a change that comes with a new website: www.cqsclassics.com.”
“This agreement provides for bilateral exchanges, allowing CQS Classics to entrust the Citroën Heritage workshop in Aulnay-sous-Bois with its restoration projects for French customers, and Citroën Heritage to entrust CQS Classics with certain projects, in particular large restorations on the structure of the cars.”
We note that CQS state on their website that they not only restore Citroën, but buy, sell and rent them.
This preferred partnership announcement of CQS Classics and Citroën Heritage, seems to fly in the face of dozens of other quality restoration shops and classic Citroën dealers in Europe.
Exactly how Citroën Heritage fits into PSA was been a somewhat grey area for many years;
The Conservatoire Citroën, was established at Aulnay-sous-Bois in 2001 and a dedicated building erected on the property to house examples of every Citroën model ever produced.
Back in November 2013, when the last Citroën C3 rolled off the assembly line at Aulnay-sous-Bois, it was placed in the Conservatoire Citroën, and C3 production was fully moved to Poissy, Aulnay-sous-Bois was relegated to producing spare parts that terminated in early 2014.
At that point, the location and even the future existence of the Conservatoire came into question as there were changes happening at the the top. Since 2014, the direction of PSA has been under the control of its CEO Carlos Tavares, replacing Philippe Varin.
L’Aventure Peugeot (the Peugeot museum) was renamed L’Aventure Peugeot Citroën DS when, in 2014 as one of the first directives from Tavares, DS Automobiles was created as it own brand within PSA.
At the time, although the DS brand was met with criticism from die-hard Citroën enthusiasts enraged that the original DS was being “cleansed” from the Citroën brand, it seemed aptly named for a convergence of all brand classics under PSA and what appeared to be the beginning of consolidation effort of its museum buildings.
Then in 2017 Groupe PSA expanded with the takeover or Opel and Vauxhall in 2017, and during that growth, in April 2017 L’Aventure Peugeot Citroën DS announced the takeover of the commercial activities of Néo Rétro, a company specializing in the distribution of spare parts for old French cars.
Throughout the corporate re-alignment and acquisitions made by PSA under Tavares, fortunately the Conservatoire Citroën has remained intact at Aulnay-sous-Bois to this day. However, various press releases from PSA over the years have deflected interest of the marque and for the Conservatoire by stating that some Citroëns would be auctioned off and others moved to L’Aventure Peugeot Citroën DS.
To add some degree of distinction to classic Citroëns within PSA, the Conservatoire took on the name Citroën Heritage, but in typical French fashion did not bother define or differentiate it within PSA to any tangible degree. Instead they have permitted the Citroën Héritage and L’Aventure Peugeot Citroën DS to co-exist. And in doing so, have not even kept up their website. If you Google “Citroën Heritage” the L’Aventure Peugeot Citroën DS pops up and the Citroën Heritage section displays this info which is 2 years old:
“Citroën is one of the most-collected makes in the world.
Citroën Heritage through the Citroën & DS France Association and the Amicale Citroën Internationale brings together lovers of the double chevron make which will soon celebrate its centenary. Early on in its history Citroën quickly became very popular and this led to numerous clubs springing up all over the world. Today, they are assembled in two organisations: the Citroën and DS France Association and the Amicale Citroën Internationale. They organise many events in France and abroad which bring together thousands of fans every year.
The richness of the make’s history and the dynamic attitude of the clubs deserved a major gesture of recognition so in 2001 Pierre Peugeot opened the Citroën Conservatoire in Aulnay-sous-Bois in the Parisian region, which has a preservation workshop, and houses a large collection retracing the story of one of the most innovative makes in the world in the history of the motor car. On display in the main hall of the Conservatoire are 300 road-going and racing cars as well as prototypes, concept cars and utilitarian vehicles. This organization looks after the Conservatoire whose exceptional collection is now open to the public.
As a sign of this collective dynamic that serves the history of the double chevron, its heritage and its collectors, the Citroën & DS France Association with the help of Citroën Héritage, L’Aventure Peugeot Citroën DS and the support of the make is getting ready to organise one of the events celebrating Citroën’s centenary, an international get-together for lovers of the make on 19-20-21 July 2019 in La Ferté Vidame.”
And if this isn’t confusing enough, enter DS Héritage which attempts to place the ID, DS and SM in yet another group, disassociating the these classic Citroëns from their Traction Avant heritage or the other innovative models produced alongside them. Here’s its official definition:
DS Héritage is the third brand entity of the Peugeot Citroën DS Adventure. A recent structure for a recent brand… but a historic and prestigious name! DS Héritage was born with the Peugeot Citroën DS Adventure, of which it is the third brand entity alongside Peugeot Adventure and Citroën Héritage. DS Héritage brings together collectors, clubs and associations dedicated to ID, DS and SM. These three iconic models have marked the history of the automobile through the aesthetic breakthrough they introduced into the automotive world as well as through their technical singularities. It is the atypical, exclusive, innovative characteristics of ID, DS and SM that have shaped the DNA of the DS Automobiles brand. Meetings, events, rallies, advice and support for maintenance and restoration, supply of parts and documentation, DS Héritage is now offering the full range of services expected by enthusiasts of the three models, in France and around the world.
Yet the ID, DS and SM are all in the Citroën Heritage (formerly Conservatioire Citroën) building. A search for it today on Google Maps displays the name “Conservatory Citroën Heritage & DS Heritage”.
And potentially to add further confusion — a soon to be finalized merger with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles along with sales declines due to the Coronavirus pandemic, has cast further doubt on just how Citroën will be positioned in the future, or if it will exist at all. The resulting merger of PSA and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will be monikered in early 2021 under the name of a new mother corporation called Stellantis of which Tavares will be the CEO.
Given all this muddling of how Classic Citroëns are preserved and accessible within the PSA, soon to be Stellantis, we find it very typical that this latest press release would announce another partnership without further clarification of Citroën Héritage or regard for the many other companies loyal to Citroën over the years, that have striven to keep classic Citroëns alive.