Citroen’s exec outlines French brand’s next moves

August 10, 2018 06:01 CET

CEO Linda Jackson of Citroen laid out a road map for the reinvention of Citroen shortly after being named to her post in 2014. Four years later, the automaker’s core model strategy is on track, with five new vehicles, including successful global launches of the C3 Aircross and C5 Aircross, Citroen’s first true SUVs. Richard Meyer, as future product planning director, has been an integral part of Citroen’s effort to update its portfolio. He spoke with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Peter Sigal about the French brand’s next steps.

Citroen is concentrating on the small and compact segments. Can you also find success in minicars or larger vehicles?

Our core model strategy has eight international silhouettes [body styles], which means we can’t be present everywhere, but we are working on a product range that will cover the main profit pools in the world. We have some customers in segments outside of B and C [small and compact], and we have to meet their expectations, but maybe we do so with a different answer than the expected ones. Our ambition is to lure customers outside the B- and C-segments, but by using a specific Citroen answer.

The C3 small hatchback is one of your most successful models, but it is still on an older platform. When will you update it on the PSA Group’s CMP multipower platform?

First, customers don’t look at the platform. The design, comfort and connectivity are the main requirements from a customer point of view. The C3 ticks all these boxes. That is why it’s a success, whatever the platform. That being said, we are working on new-energy solutions. In 2020, we will have our first new vehicles with a new generation of electric powertrain.

You have found a recognizable design language for Citroen, but as a future product planner, you must think ahead. Have you started working on the next generation?

We have defined product and style markers that are important to ensure consistency between the different products, and at the same time we are working on ways to evolve these markers. All these elements will change in the coming years, but what is most important is keeping the DNA of the brand, such as the advanced comfort approach.

Looking ahead 10 years what will be different about Citroen?

It’s difficult to answer, but the DNA of the brand will be present. I think Citroen will still be challenging the rules in terms of design and will be the reference point in terms of comfort. The models won’t be the same. In terms of powertrains, we will have a combination of different solutions, because we are an international brand, but the speed of new energy vehicle adoption won’t be the same.

How is Citroen getting ready for the move toward self-driving cars?

 We know there are huge expectations regarding autonomous vehicles. Today we’re already at a very good level with the first step toward autonomy in the new C5 Aircross, which has our Highway Driver Assist system (adaptive cruise control with lane positioning). We have a fleet of autonomous vehicle test cars. We have been testing them with customers and we are tuning development to fit their expectations.

Why did Citroen need an overhaul?

What caused this was the separation of the DS brand from Citroen in 2014. Previously, DS was a product line within Citroen. We had to re-define the brand positioning for Citroen. It was a great opportunity to understand where we wanted to put Citroen in the future.

You have a sales target of 1.6 million vehicles by 2020. Is Citroen’s success based on sales volumes or are there some other measurements?

Volume is part of the success that we are targeting, but it is not the only component. We are targeting customer satisfaction — we want to be one of the top three recommended brands worldwide – and, of course, we have profitability targets.

How do you improve your ranking?

You have to go back to our 360-degree approach to our customers. We have to work on products, services, and, more generally, on the customer journey. We know that customers are expecting a better experience with the brand. We are defining action plans for each element of product and service. We are working on all these elements at the same time, and they should help us improve our positioning in terms of recommended brands.

Citroen has always been known as an embodiment of French style and culture. But now you are selling the C5 Aircross in 92 countries. How does that sense of being a French car translate in international markets?

To be strong worldwide, we need to have a strong brand, with a coherence in product, in marketing, in messages from the brand — and all these elements have to be the same everywhere. We also need to precisely understand customer expectations in different regions. Although we have a core market strategy, with eight silhouettes, we have to find a way to create the right balance regionally. Customer expectations aren’t the same.

Could you elaborate?

For example, when the new C3 Aircross is launched in China it will be called the C4 Aircross. It’s exactly the same car but with a slightly longer wheelbase because customer expectations in China aren’t exactly the same. The third element is that we have to be daring in some markets that would seem to be conventional. Our new silhouettes have been well-received by customers in these countries.

Bio box

NAME: Richard Meyer
TITLE: Citroen Director of Future Products and Strategy
AGE: 53
MAIN CHALLENGE: Developing an international brand identity for Citroen.

You have high ambitions for South America. What are your customer expectations there?

South America has a lot in common with the European market, but there are some differences. For instance, customers in Brazil and Latin America are very sensitive to noises in the car. It’s a sensitivity that is linked to the culture as well as to the road conditions. Therefore, we have to take things such as noise, vibration and harshness this into account very early in development.


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