Citroën destroys brand loyalty

Brand loyalty is a strange thing. I consider myself a Citroen enthusiast, but its products have changed a great deal over the years depending on who was calling the shots. André Citroën himself never got to see the Traction Avant do so well, and never got a whiff of the 2CV and DS (launched during Michelin’s custodianship). Some of my favourite Citroens came out of the Peugeot years, and were better because of it – BX and XM in particular.

Spot of the holiday? Perhaps. Certainly joyous.

Very much a Citroën, whatever marketing numpties think.

But show me a Saxo and I’ll turn my nose up at it. Wave a Xsara in my direction and I will not get excited. Hand me the keys to any of Citroën’s current line up, and I’d probably just give them back – ironically apart from the e-Mehari, which isn’t actually a Citroën at all.

My loyalty to the brand has been diluted by Peugeot’s with chevrons, and by Citroën’s frankly callous regard for its own heritage. For years, the conservatoire was impossible to visit. A hard working team kept some incredible machines in storage, and Citroën will, rather begrudgingly, let you poke around the place today. For now. If you apply for a visit through a club. And only on certain days.

Citroën has also been one of the worst for supporting older models. They cannot wait for the period to expire in which they must make parts available for their old cars. Even before then, they’ll ramp the prices up to quite ridiculous levels, so demand falls away.

But circumstances have taken a far darker turn of late, with the spinning off of the DS ‘brand’ from within Citroën. This triumph of marketing over substance has seen Citroën now airbrush one of its most iconic designs from its history files. You can see it right here. A lovely list of Citroëns from the ages, but the DS (and, oddly, the SM) are nowhere to be seen.

Citroen SM

Apparently the SM isn’t a #CitroenIcon either. Insanity.

How utterly ridiculous. The DS was one of the most incredible cars of the 20th Century, but because some marketing bod who was born decades later had a blue sky moment, it apparently isn’t a Citroën anymore. Frankly, I’m starting to wish that Peugeot had just killed off the Citroën brand rather than subject it to this. Hydropneumatic suspension has already been killed off, and now history is being altered to make it easier to sell the hideous DS range of cars.

PSA, the group that owns Citroën, really doesn’t seem to get it. It has no understanding that heritage sells. No, not like that. It isn’t something you just dig out once in a while to try and get a sale. Heritage is something manufacturers need to invest in. BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche understand this, and Jaguar Land Rover is fast following suit.

None of these companies are attempting to erase cars from their history. Citroën overlooking the DS is like Jaguar overlooking the E-Type, or Land Rover pretending the Range Rover didn’t happen, BMW ignoring the M3 and Porsche denying it had anything to do with the original 911.

It’s the final straw as far as I’m concerned. The Citroën of today is not worthy of my attention. Instead, I will forever enjoy it’s actual heritage. The one that has the DS firmly at its centre – a car which was very much about substance, not empty promises from a design agency.

14 thoughts on “Citroën destroys brand loyalty

  1. I totally agree that Citroen Name is going to be destroyed , i really like The old Citroen because they where different / unique / super advanced … Shame for PSA that decided to go for the name DS …..

    • That’s entirely the reason. When a friend asked Citroen why there was no DS, Citroen replied that Citroen and DS are not linked anymore. Idiotic!

      • oh my, then they are going to have to build a separate DS conservatoire and move all the D and derivative models from Aulnay into there. ha ha.

  2. Actually I see the entire PSA company as in the doldrums and unlikely to make it out of the next 5 years except as a badge on a Chinese-built car like MG.

    They only have s single recipe and a narrow range of engines, whether it is badged as a 108 or a DS5 it is essentially the same car. People don’t want to pay 40k for a car that is really a 108 writ large

  3. I had about 30 citroens, all of them were hydropneumatic. Now i ended with 1x BX 16V, 2x C5 facelift and 1x C6. Next car will be definitely not citroen, or not new citroen. But i think it will be something in citroen the DS was iconic for 20th century.. for me now the Tesla is iconic for 21st century.

  4. Sadly, this is a case where when you’ve blown the doors off all thinking in the world, it’s hard to top! I challenge anyone to name a product designed by mere humans that in one fell swoop, introduced so much advanced, uncompromised (by marketing folks and/or management) design & function & comfort in a single product than the DS. Hands down, it has to be a near unbeatable icon into the far future for many years in my humble opinion, otherwise why would it constantly reappear in futuristic SciFi movies to this day? The Tesla simply electrified a pretty standard automotive format – hell, Porsche showed a 4 wheel drive all electric car in 1904, so what’s new? In my mind the DS is one of the most brilliant products ever designed, which is why I feel enthusiasts are still digging early DSs out of barns, fields, wherever they’ve been left to decay, and rejuvenating them because very few automotive designs today match its superlative comfort. And I firmly believe its longevity is due in large part to the engineers genius in keeping so much of the car interchangeable over its 20 yr lifespan. What other car can be named where the doors, glass, rear wings, roof & to a large extent the interior and other basic components can be swapped from one DS to another where the individual vehicles could be 20 years apart in manufacture? Renault, Peugeot, and nearly every other mfr in the world has of course used planned obsoleteness to drive their market, with products that have little staying power. The only thing I would change to bring the DS into and beyond today’s standards would be to do a modern soundproofing job on the engine and gearbox, which should be easy by applying all the noise reduction technology developed since 1955. Leave the rest of the car as-is – it is one of the most gorgeous vehicle designs ever created. How many new cars cause people to swoon with astonishment who suddenly come upon a nice DS when they’ve never seen one before, marveling at the design and then try out the seats? And I’m still putting neglected DSs back on the road till I kick off this madcap planet.

  5. Believe it or not, the C5 (the last model with hydropneumatic suspension) which is not advertised in Germany since 2011 and more or less has disappeared from the dealerships, sells 3 times better this year than the new DS5 in the same period! What else needs to be said?

    I am driving with an old DS (unfortunately, no money for a good SM, prices are too high these days) since about 20 years now. I just love this vehicle, and like the Traction, the 2CV, the CX and also the 5HP it is an iconic model which has all the genes a brand can be proud about.

    But neglecting this identity, and the (successful) past, has been also history since long. Do you remember that Lenin later on removed his best friend and early campaign activist, Trotzki, from a photo? While it was perceived as being a smart move, it was discovered quickly and left a certain perception. How do you think about Lenin’s move today? How do you think people will think about Citroën once they identify these similarities? Again, no comment…

    I am NOT gonna buy a new Citroen. Very easy. Short-term incentives on management level, this is not long-term sustainability a heroic car brand should be interested into.

  6. It’s a sad fact I’m afraid. I pulled up at a newly opened citroen dealership by me a couple of years ago in my cx gti turbo for some Xantia bits. A suited rep came out and said, “that’s not a citroen” I kept calm and replied that he goes back inside and looks up the history of the cars he’s selling. Needless to say I didn’t go into the parts department and took my custom elsewhere.

  7. Welcome to the new era of ‘alternative facts’, as presented by PSA. There can be no logical explanation for the airbrushing of the DS and SM from the Citroën Origins website, nor any rational association with the DS brand. There is no resemblance, engineering, stylistic or otherwise, between the DS3, the DS5, and the SM or original DS and I don’t see a bright future for any brand, birthed through such logic. The biggest test coming for Citroën will be the 2018 launch of its new suspension system. If that doesn’t advance the game, Citroën will have lost its spiritual raison d’être.

  8. Well they ‘have’ put the DS/SM back on that web page – to some extent :). When I saw the DS for the first time (at the tender age of 11+) I just about fell out of the chair I was in. I then drove across the US to Canada in the spring of 1963 in a ’62 DS19 Grand Route. Got my parents to buy a Cit (a used 1961 1ID 19 with manual steering) and the die was cast :). For the past 53 years have not, personally, owned anything else but D’s/and an SM. Now have an XM and a 2CV along with a 72 DS21 BVH as well as a ’69 1/2 ID21 Break and a 73 SM. To say I am ‘hooked’ would be somewhat of an understatement. Have had ‘modern cars’ supplied by those I have worked for – and nothing that I have ridden in or driven even comes close to the 72 DS in comfort and driving pleasure.

    As most all have said – the use of the DS name on a re-badge Pug is just about as close to being sacrilegious as one can get. PSA’s current line up holds no interest for me in the least.

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