I recently received a letter from Norman A Brooke in response to this column in the June 1997 edition where I commented on Citroën's reaction to the unauthorised use of their logo and name. Norman (I hope he doesn?t mind my using his first name) objects to dealers taking free publicity without so much as a `by your leave?. Rather than paraphrase his comments, I thought it might be interesting to quote from his letter. `...you collect your brand new car. What do you find? Instead of Citroën Xantia (or what have you) you find that the boot lid tells all the world that it?s `Bloggs & Co.?s Citroën?!!!?
Obviously this is not a problem when the dealer’s name is shown on a rear screen sticker or on the number plate but what do you do if the dealer rivets or bonds a plate to the car? Norman says that faced with an irremovable badge, he intends asking the dealer for an advertising fee of, say, £50 per month `to help run what he has made into a mobile hoarding.’ Norman asks `What does the dealer think has given him the right to put his advertising material on a vehicle he does not own, and to do this without permission?’ I think this is a valid point although I would suggest that contractually, when the plate is affixed to a car, the vehicle in question is at that time the property of the dealer to do with as he likes. The solution is to reject the car on the grounds that you do not agree to provide free advertising for the dealer. As in all such cases, it is wise to read the small print of any contract before signing it.
This of course contrasts with other consumer items - buy a shirt and while it is possible that the designer's or manufacturer's name may appear on a label, the retailer's name will not. The retailer will probably supply a bag with his name on it. It is difficult to envisage a car being supplied in a bag...
The use of designer labels leads me to relay a story I was told by e-mail by a New Zealander Citroën enthusiast who illegally parked his DS. He returned to the car to find a parking warden inspecting the car. The warden told our enthusiast that he couldn't issue a parking ticket because the law required the make and model to be written on the ticket. He could find neither on the car.
The following question was raised on one of the many Citroën e-mail Lists recently. If the definition of a mid-engined car is that the engine is mounted forward of the rear (driven) axle, aren't the Traction, DS and SM mid-engined since their engines are mounted aft of the (driven) front axle? Answers on a five pound note to my home address please.
We were recently visited by John Stafford, ex-editor of the newsletter of the Citroën Car Club of Tasmania who has proved invaluable in providing me with an antipodean perspective on the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon . John Reynolds was also kind enough to lend me a copy of the Daily Express commemoration book. Since the thirtieth anniversary of Lucien Bianchi's moral victory is next year, I thought it might prove interesting to re-tell the story. Accordingly, if anyone has any contemporary material, I would love to borrow it - photocopies would be ideal.
John Stafford arrived in an Alfasud - the closest thing to a GS that he could lay his hands on and we spent a very pleasant afternoon discussing Citroëns. John and I have been corresponding by e-mail for quite some time and he has published a few of my articles in his newsletter.
Rumour has it that the ZX replacement will be called by this catchy name. Scoop pictures published in the motoring press show a rather bland car with rear styling that is strongly reminiscent of the Xantia. There is no new technology - engines and transmissions are derived from the current range and suspension is conventional. Personally, I think it is a much more attractive offering than the ZX but remove the badging and it could be made by anyone. However, given the particular area of the market that this car will be sold in, this is probably a good thing although the ZXs unusual looks do not seem to have adversely affected sales.
Does the XM have a future? Rumour has it that the XM is shortly to be withdrawn from the UK market although the recent introduction of the "intelligent" automatic gearbox might be seen as putting the lie to this suggestion. Certainly the existence of the Xantia V6 with Activa suspension would seem to indicate that this is currently viewed as the the top of the range model. There have been further rumours that a V8 engine is planned for the XM's replacement. I must admit I consider this to be unlikely unless a return to North America is on the cards. Furthermore, who would build such an engine? Certainly PSA's partner, Fiat is unlikely to do so. Perhaps we will see a bought-in powerplant.
More likely is that the Xantia's V6 will be used instead - possibly introduced in the XM in an attempt to boost flagging sales.
I glanced at What Car the other day and read the review of the XM - they liked its ride and appearance but disliked its steering and massive depreciation.
Image and identity
I don't know what other members think but I dislike the corporate grill. It's not that it is ugly - merely that I find it difficult to differentiate, at a distance, between a ZX, Xantia and XM. A strong corporate identity is a good idea but so too is product differentiation. In my opinion, this is what is wrong with Synergie/Evasion - it looks too much like Despatch - a van. If I were forking out for an MPV, I would be most upset if my local tradesman were driving what is essentially the same vehicle - this is nothing to do with snobbery but everything to do with the image that a particular vehicle has (and therefore the way that a particular driver is perceived). I guess that the image the XM owner is presenting is that he or she is so wealthy that the massive depreciation is not a problem! Given the common management of Peugeot and Citroën, I am surprised that the lessons of the Peugeot 605 have not been learned. The 605 is a very good car, competitively priced, elegant, etc. but looks just like the more downmarket 405 - and the punters stayed away. I understand that Synergie is due for a restyle.
Mike Connally commented to me some time ago that he was disappointed to discover that the latest Xantias (Xantiae?) share the same dashboard as the earliest models and he observed that people expect to see improvements when they buy a later version - especially where there is a long production run. I tend to agree with Mike on this although I am mindful of the old adage "If it ain't broke, then don't fix it."
In discussions with other Citroën enthusiasts, many say they are disappointed with the current range and will look to other marques for their daily transport - included in this number is a Standing Committee member who is contemplating an Alfa Romeo. I do not agree with this viewpoint. I can understand why people do hold this view however. In an attempt to broaden the appeal of the marque, much of the individualism is less obvious than it once was. This means that it takes longer to appreciate them. So for those doubters among you, insist on something longer than the traditional half hour test drive. This is somewhat paradoxical since in years of yore, one needed a long test drive to become acclimatised to the Citroën way of doing things.
I had a test drive - actually it was a courtesy car - in an AX Debut yesterday. Styling wise it may be more adventurous than Saxo but it is clear that Saxo is a great improvement over the AX in terms of dynamics, driver appeal and build quality. The AX may very well have class leading ride but the Saxo ride is way superior. Neither of course is in the same league as the XM.
I was delighted to see in the latest edition of Directions (Citroën UK's magazine) a picture of a Traction in an article on the V6 Xantia plus a very interesting article on Citroën UK?s advertising campaigns of the last 40 years. Visit your local dealer and pick up a copy. Citroën UK would seem to be acknowledging their past and I for one am very pleased. Perhaps this signifies a sea change in opinion at Slough - if so, this can only augur well for closer relations between them and us.
© 1997 Julian Marsh
|This article was originally published in the Citroënian, the monthly magazine of the Citroën Car Club .|