This piece came about as a result of a conversation with Graham (SeMantics) Lane who told me that when he bought his latest CX from a well known south coast dealer, he was told by the salesman that they are under instructions not to mention the fact that Citroën is a French company. Graham and I then discussed a conversation I had with a Xantia driver who was told by a salesman that the Xantia's suspension is unlike anything to be found on any other car apart from the XM. He, being one of the cognoscenti, queried this, pointing out that hydropneumatics have been fitted to Citroëns since 1952. The salesman told him he was mistaken and that the hydropneumatic system is the "very latest in high tech". My friend queried this and pointed out that he learned to drive in a late sixties DS. "What's a DS?" asked the salesman.
My wife who is a marketeer by profession tells me that one can market any product with little or no knowledge of the product other than its USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and the target market; selling presumably requires little or no knowledge of the events leading up to the product on the forecourt or on the shop shelf.
Or is there something more sinister afoot? Given that Citroën UK are frequently subject to criticism within these hallowed pages, I am surprised that they never feel the need to respond. I assume that the Citroënian is read at Slough.
So, here is an open letter to Citroën UK:-
Dear Citroën UK
Is there any reason why the "French Connection" is being played down by the sales force?
Is there any reason why the company's history is subject to censorship?
Is there any reason why you no longer advertise in the Citroënian?
Is it because you are not interested in supporting or even acknowledging the existence of any vehicles other than those in your current range?
Is it because you dislike the CCC accepting advertising from non-franchised repair operatives? Do you feel perhaps that these repairers take work away from your franchised dealer network, most of whom have little or no interest in or knowledge of older vehicles.
Are you aware that the CCC is an incredibly enthusiastic organisation, most of whose members are publicists for the marque?
On a personal level, I object to paying £45 plus VAT per hour to have a sixteen year old fitter struggle with an obsolete vehicle (in my case a BX!) when I can go to an automotive engineer with some forty years experience with the marque who charges half the labour rates charged by your dealers. Of course I accept that the market dictates labour rates and that a main dealer has much higher overheads than someone operating out of a lock up garage but the other side of the coin is that he offers a friendly, efficient, personal service and actually manages to fix the faults, quite often by fabricating parts. He is an engineer, not a fitter.
If I seem critical of your dealer network, it is born out of more than twenty five years experience. I know that you do not dictate the labour rates charged by your dealers, nor can you be held responsible for disputes between your dealers and their customers but I am sure that they, the dealers, take their cue from you.
Perhaps you would like to respond in these pages or, alternatively you could let me interview a spokesperson for the company. I suspect however that you will ignore this letter totally.
This is of course a personal view and the Club's disclaimer vis-à-vis the sentiments being expressed not necessarily being sanctioned by the Club apply.
© 1994 Julian Marsh
|This article was originally published in the Citroënian, the monthly magazine of the Citroën Car Club .|