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Frank and Fair Assessment of Car Values by the Folks Who Drive the ID-DS Models

D Series brochures index page


The current model Citroens exported to the U. S. are the result of constant evolution of the DS model in existence now for over fifteen years. French auto companies are not given to change for the sake of change and normally when an all new model is introduced it is meant to sell for a minimum of ten years with only scant changes. The Citroen Car Company was one of the pioneers in the industry and also one of the first to use front wheel drive. In the thirties, the front wheel drive Citroen was introduced and saw duty for many years as everything from state limousines to Paris taxicabs, When continental industry recovered from World War ll the venerable square rigged model was due for retirement after twenty years of production, and years of study went into the new model. The inventive French engineers are happily blessed with far more freedom in design than their domestic brethren. Unhampered by yearly model changes and Madison Avenue's idea of what good looks are, the French invariably come up with a radical design predicated on people packaging and performance suited to the needs of European motoring.

When the Citroen DS 19 was introduced in the mid fifties, it was truly an all new car. The startlingly different aerodynamic body design, the revolutionary air/oil suspension system, the total reliance on hydraulics to move all working parts, and the continuation of front wheel drive evoked mixed emotions in everyone; from press to potential customer. The DS came to these shores in 1956. Distribution points were not plentiful and the model suffered some from U. S. driving habits and the strangeness of its mechanical components. Servicemen called it a cross between an engineer's dream and a plumber's nightmare. The plumbing of course referred to the extensive piping and series of pumps that kept the hydraulics moving It also needed a special type of hydraulic fluid and early service problems were often related to the use of ordinary brake fluid in the rather sensitive system. But the cadre of owners grew gradually as the Citroen Car Company expanded its dealer network and service facilities. Today, of course, the Citroen has been improved vastly from the first DS, but it still retains the many charmingly different features that first endeared it to the very loyal and enthusiastic owners.

Who Are The Owners?
The road test survey does not query the owner on his geographical location or occupation. But the postmarks on the replies indicate owners in the cities and in the countryside. About 15% of the response came in with Canadian postmarks and nearly half the replies indicated residence in the snow country. Citroen owners appear to be an affluent group: the vast majority listed two or more other cars owned in the average household of three people. Other makes of cars owned varied considerably from VW to Cadillac and a high percentage listed the Citroen as the "First" car, or primary family transport. The most outstanding clue to the owners was in the response to the query on most liked features.

Citroen owners enjoy excellent fuel economy with the big car. At the infrequent gas stops, underhood checking is simple, although the major working parts are well hidden by the plumbing.
Citroen owners appreciate the luxury of the make. An example of these features is the well padded rear door armrest, the individual ashtrays on the front seat backs and the extensive padding of the seat back to protect the rear seat passenger.

These ranged from simply "Liked the superb ride" to lengthy and accurate descriptions of the different engineering features of the car. The Citroen owner appears to be a thinking man with a definite appreciation of a car that is different from the average. He also appreciates the fact that these myriad differences all have a design purpose and are not merely window dressing to make the car more saleable to the masses. Mr. Citroen owner drives many miles per year too. Response indicates 47% drive between ten and fifteen thousand miles per year, while 16% drive up to 25.000 miles and another 16% drive in excess of 25,000 miles per year. On the other side of the coin, 21% drive under 10,000 miles in a year.

There are lots of kooky features on the Citroen. One of its charms is the method of changing a rear tire. One bolt is removed and Voila, the entire fender slides off. Hubcap comes off easily, then the car jacks itself up. Putting the suspension setting on high and running up the engine raises the car quite high.
The jack is placed in the support under the front door, then the suspension setting goes to its lowest and the car is comfortably off the ground. The procedure is reversed after the wheel is changed.


Under "Reasons for choosing present car" the ride quality was the most mentioned factor. Not one survey sheet mentioned cost factor, although the Citroen is well above the economy level of cost for a new car. Other reasons for choosing the Citroen include economy of operation, size, safety factors, unusual appearance, exceptional comfort, advanced design and functional styling, front wheel drive, interior spaciousness, disc brakes, and prior ownership of a Citroen. One reply listed the "Consumers Reports" analysis as a motive for buying and several owners listed favorable road test reports from enthusiast magazines as the reasons for investigating the purchase of a new or used Citroen. An overwhelming 67% had bought their cars new, while 33% were happy with the used Citroen.
Nearly 22% of the new car owners were driving their second Citroen, and many of these had first bought a used model and later traded for the current series of DS Citroens. While a few mentioned the fact that the car lost a great deal of trade-in value in the first years of ownership, they still said they would probably buy another Citroen. These latter replies usually included the fact that Citroen dealers gave generous trade-in allowances on the older models. It appears that Citroen owners have a very high degree of loyalty to the car, and as further investigation proves, they can be fanatic about some of its features being superior to anything else on the road.

Authorized Service
Automotive service is perhaps the biggest gripe today of the American consumer. No matter what the brand of car, new or used, readers constantly write about lack of service for their vehicles at the local dealer. These problems are not confined to either imported or domestic makes, rather it seems a universally poor situation for any customer. A few years ago. the owner of a European built car with its metric sizings expected long delays on parts acquisition, and infrequent service shops with fewer than half being competent to work on his car. With the age of computers, parts move with equal ease from Europe, Japan or Detroit. But the availability at the customer level of parts and decent service is not much better for the Chevy owner than it is for the man with a Ferrari. The situation has driven many an owner to do-it-yourself activity in order to keep his automobile roadworthy. In light of the current state of automobile repair, how does the Citroen owner rate his dealer service? His is a highly specialized vehicle with an abundance of bits and pieces shared with no other conveyance. The life lines extend to France also, and overseas shipments have been plagued with various strikes for the past several years.
Citroen has a small but effective network of dealers and authorized service shops across the nation. An astounding 64% of the survey replies listed the use of dealer service. Of the 36% that did their own service, most listed the primary reason as non-availability of service in their area. The replies often stated that the nearest dealer was over 100 miles away. Then too, many owners enjoy tinkering with their Citroen and several listed rather proudly that they did all their own service although a dealer was nearby. Of those using the dealer service, 37% rated their Citroen dealer facilities and mechanics as excellent, and 13% gave it the rating of average. In between these extremes, 35% said service was good, and 11% commented that service was merely fair.
A minority 4% listed dealer service as shocking. When queried about problems with the car, the answers varied. A good percentage, particularly those with late model Citroens, listed mechanical problems as very minor or nonexistent. Early replacement things included items like water pump, hydraulic pump seals, starter motor and generator (earlier models). Far and away the biggest service problem seemed to be brakes. Nearly 20% of the replies listed problems with the front disc brakes. Several mentioned that the front brake pistons seized in under 20,000 miles, but most said that the dealer replacement work was done under warranty and no further problems had occurred. It is apparent from this survey that the hydraulic difficulties common to the early DS and ID models have virtually been eliminated. The replies that listed a pump problem in particular all listed ownership of a car at least seven years old.
So the dealer service for Citroen Cars receives a very respectable rating from the owners. Although the very nature of the beast does tend to bring the owner to the dealer for major repairs, the higher than average ratings for dealer service are encouraging. Owners complained about the high cost of the specialized parts, but it didn't seem to affect their enthusiasm for the vehicle.

Likes And Dislikes
The heart of an owner survey on a given type of car is what they like and dislike about their choice of transportation. It is an established fact that the unusual features of the Citroen attract a special breed of buyer. A discriminating soul; he likes the car for its advanced ideas and unique appearance. He dares to be different from the herd and his car resembles nothing else on the U. S. highways. He has considered other cars in the four to six thousand price range too. Owners list cars ranging from domestic full-sized, and fully equipped, sedans to the Mercedes range as other makes under consideration before purchase. It is interesting that 66% of the owners polled listed Volvo as one of the makes considered before the final decision was made on the Citroen. That fact indicates a desire for comfort, roadability and reliability in the choice of the new car.
It is to be expected that owner's likes follow the trend toward the features that drew them to the car in the first place. The exceptional ride and extreme comfort is the most liked feature listed by 32% of the replies. Then 21% listed the fuel economy, particularly good for a big car, as their primary joy. The front wheel drive is often mentioned, the disc brakes and the long wear on the Michelin radial tires are high points too. Along these lines, owners praise the excellent handling qualities, fine visibility, the safety of the braking system, and the high degree of stability on the road. Many mention the engineering of the air/oil suspension as a most desirable feature. Replies from the snow belt indicate that owners there are well pleased with the car in the snow, claiming that it goes over roads easily while most cars are trapped in their driveways. The luxurious appointments, the fine and extremely comfortable leather seats, the overall high level of quality control, the enormous trunk, in short, the total comfort and convenience of the car are major items for the owners. One correspondent attached an note to his survey sheet stating, "If Citroen leased the ID to traveling salesmen for 30 days, 90% of the salesmen would be driving Citroen exclusively." That note is typical of the unabashed enthusiasm the owners have for their car. They exhibit almost missionary zeal in describing the ride and handling qualities. Many replies list the excellent lights as a big plus and some owners, obviously Canadian, enthuse about the swiveling headlights that see around corners. These items are standard on the Citroen in its native land and some other countries; but vehicular laws in this country prohibit the use of the device, which is a real pity.
Gasoline mileage is a major consideration for many people today. Normally if one has a big car, he pays the penalty of poor mileage and frequent stops for fuel. The Citroen not only has a big 17 gallon gas tank, but owners report excellent mileage figures as well. They average 23 miles per gallon in town driving and 29 miles per gallon or better on the open road. Both are exceptional figures for a full size sedan resting on a 123 inch wheelbase. One item that brought out mixed replies was the question on the car being weatherproof and dustproof. While 85% said the car was weatherproof. the 15% that said no were quite expressive as to the leaks. Over 60% responded that the Citroen was dustproof while 20% replied that dustproofing was reasonable. Citroen owners were as voluble in their dislikes as they were in their praise. Nearly half of those polled felt that the car is under-powered. has poor pickup, and lugs in 4th gear. Many went on to explain that 4th gear was just not suited for in-town driving. A high percentage of owners, again undoubtedly from the snow belts, complained bitterly about body rust and poor paint on the earlier models. The crowded engine compartment and inaccessibility of major components for service were cited by owners too. They felt these factors related to the high cost of repair work. Frequent brake maintenance and related problems were voiced by 35% of the owners too. Over 40% mentioned poor ventilation as a disliked factor also. On the average. the complaints were tempered with an explanation on how the problem had been cured. The body rust factor apparently is the main, non-corrected complaint over the years.

The problems of owning a unique vehicle with limited distribution does not seem to bother the vast majority of Citroen owners. Their enthusiasm for the car seems to outshine the majority of complaints and many of the favorable comments would make good ad copy for the company. In response to the query on probable choice of next car, the incredible majority of 89% replied that a Citroen would definitely be the next new car. One fellow commented that his Citroen was an unbeatable road car and fantastic for winter motoring. A few mentioned the NSU R080 as the next choice of car, which illustrates the owner's desire to drive something that is just a bit different from the masses. Many mention the hope that a higher horsepower engine will appear in the car soon, but they still list a DS as the next car for the family.
The picture we get of the average owner boils down to a man with more than one car and a small family. He has a desire for a functional and comfortable mode of transport, he is above average in income, and perhaps a bit offbeat in taste. He is eager to describe the attributes of his choice of car and enjoys communicating with other owners or people interested in Citroen. Oddly enough, the 11% that would not buy another Citroen list poor service and mechanical woes as the outstanding cause of their disillusionment rather than the non-standard features of the car itself. To further investigate some of these features, check the road test of the current model Citroen in this issue of Road Test

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