Citroën CEO Linda Jackson confirmed today that the company will launch a new large saloon to address the market that was occupied by the C5 and C6 prior to their discontinuation.
Claiming it will be a distinctive-looking, high-tech car with the emphasis on comfort, Jackson said it will bring “something different” to the class of rivals. But with it filling two voids in Citroën’s line-up the first question we have is; Are they going after too broad a market?
“What it won’t be is a new C5,” said Jackson. “But there will be a new large saloon because having one in the line up is a crucial part of being a big manufacturer. To be credible you need a range across small, medium and large cars, including SUVs. Do that well, and you cover the requirements of volume and profit to succeed in this business across fleet and private sales.”
She went on to say that the new sedan will be hinted at by the C-xperience concept revealed at the 2016 Paris motor show and will launch in 2019 or 2020. Our guess would be its formal introduction at the Citroën 100th anniversary celebration event to be held in July 2019. (Cue now for competitive manufacturers to start adopting the C-xperience’s style.)
Jackson confirmed that much of the business case for the car was built around demand in China, where last year Citroën sales fell 47.3% as a result of the shift to SUVs and increased competition from local car manufacturers. So based on that reason here is concern # 2 for our being skeptical of its success; The C-xperience is a very low sleek car. At 4.85 metres long it is similar in length to the C6. Its low height (1.37m), long wheelbase (3.0m) and swooping roofline echoed the dramatic lines of the Numero 9 Concept introduced in April 2012. (See Citroënvie article: https://citroenvie.com/citroen-announces-numero-9-concept/). A far cry from an SUV.
To immediately address the market shift in China, Citroën launched the C5 Aircross. However, Jackson firmly believes that “For all the change, China is still our second largest market, and saloons are still a significant part of that market.” We’ll see but we don’t think André Citroën, if he were alive, would be willing to bet the company on that.
The traditional profit numbers may be the lucrative end goal toward this move as large sedans provide strong profit margins when they actually sell without deep discounts. However, question #3 that we have is; How will Citroën distinguish their big sedan from the rest?
To that Jackson recites the Citroën marketing message of the past few years that Citroën’s Advanced Comfort programme will be key with the enticement that an all-new suspension system will be introduced to put ride comfort at the heart of the car’s make-up, while also filtering out external noise and vibration. In short, Citroën will try to hearken back to the days of hydropneumatic ride comfort by offering what they claimed back in June 2016 would be their re-engineered solution of wheel damped weighted suspension via a non-hydropneumatic means eerily similar in principle to the early 2CV. (Read further details here: https://citroenvie.com/citroen-advanced-comfort-program-detailed/).
It would appear, given that “advanced technology” becoming commonplace in most medium and large size sedans these days that ride comfort is to be the primary discerning factor for purchasing this big new Citroën. And so we have another take at Citroën attempting to make a modern original DS. In doing so, do they have the courage to introduce both style and engineering that will make it one of, if not the, most influential cars of the 21st century? (Read the article we featured back in November 2011 about the many innovations of the original DS: https://citroenvie.com/ds-features-automotive-pre-imminence/).
That may be less of a challenge had they not decided to create a separate upscale brand and named it DS. So what does Citroën do to distinguish this new model? Why refer to other hydropneumatic models of course that they feel are iconic and haven’t managed to re-brand yet like; CX, BX, and XM. (Makes one wonder when they are going to go upscale beyond DS and launch SM as a brand.)
“Our core message is ‘Be different, feel good’, and every car we build will embody that philosophy,” said Jackson. “We have the history and the DNA to build unique and rewarding cars. We want Citroën to be an attractive, aspirational and iconic brand, whichever segment it is operating in.”
Jackson also hinted that the new sedan will give a view of a luxury flagship without any of the traditional cues of chrome, leather or lacquered wood.
We suggest that Jackson and her team spend some serious time defining this sedan’s specific segment. In these days of fully featured car offerings to win market share, it’s probably not a good idea to offer a flagship Citroën sedan in a market where an upscale DS brand is pitched as the DS level of Citroën one aspires to own. You say claim it pays homage to a CX, BX, XM or any other previous Citroën model, but there is little doubt it is going to be compared to the original DS and in that case, Citroën should ensure they are not taking a shot in the dark with this new flagship effort.