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.
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.
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.