PSA Peugeot Citroen has managed to attract much needed cash through a never before seen split investment from the Chinese partner Dongfeng and the French state, while many smaller investors were also allowed special investment deals.
But the truth is that the fate of the second largest European automaker looks to be hanging by a thread – as the company comes from years of losses, a high dependence on the European region and a six-years long slump in demand there.
Now, for Citroen’s part of the “Back in the race” turnaround strategy devised by the new chief executive Carlos Tavares, the brand needs to move towards its roots – becoming a more affordable, decisively funky brand.
A first manifesto of the new plan is the new Citroen C4 Cactus, which fights in the highly competitive compact segment, but has a fresh take on design (which renders it with a love/hate scenario) and wacky ideas like bench seats and “Airbump” exterior door panels developed by BASF.
“This is not supposed to be a niche car; it’s a vehicle with broad appeal,” says Citroen product chief Pierre Monferrini.
“Everybody else is trying to express aggressivity and sportiness,” adds Alexandre Malval, Citroen’s chief designer. “We believe that’s a bit dated, and Citroen should go its own way.”
Tavares envisions the group on three layers now – the Peugeot mass-market brand moves slightly upscale towards the likes of Volkswagen, the DS line-up becomes a luxury stand-alone brand and the Citroen positions at the more entry-level category.