The prostitution of a goddess
In Ancient Greece, the hetairai were female servants who allegedly
practiced sacred prostitution in honour of the goddess Aphrodite.
The goddess herself was not a prostitute.
Peugeot-CitroŽn seem to have ignored this latter point and have decided
instead to turn the goddess into a prostitute. The goddess in
question is the DS and her name has been attached to a new marque
which, name apart, has absolutely nothing inn common with the original.
Now I have no problem with Peugeot-CitroŽn choosing to create a new
marque but I find it profoundly depressing that they chose the name
‘DS’ for a range of utterly conventional mainstream cars which
represent the total antithesis of what the DS, stood for. In
1955, ‘utterly conventional mainstream cars’ were rear wheel drive,
cart sprung, drum-braked, cross-ply tyre equipped, un-aerodynamic
machines built on a chassis. The DS represented a quantum
leap (to employ an old but still appropriate clichť) in automotive
design – something that is unlikely to ever happen again.
Rather than admit that this is the case, Peugeot-CitroŽn pretend that
this new marque harks back to the DS when self-evidently it does no
such thing. Had the decision been made to equip all cars in the
marque with hydropneumatic suspension, then an argument could be made
for such a hypothetical range of cars to be viewed as some sort of
successor to the DS – in which case, why not retain the name
CitroŽn? The DS range could – indeed should – have been given
another name Panhard perhaps? (although I believe that PSA no
longer has the rights to that name) Or Talbot? Or maybe
something totally new.
And not only was the DS technologically ahead of the competition, it
looked like nothing else on the road. The DS range looks to my
eyes just like every other marque.
A few years ago, in CAR, Gavin Green quoted the late Geoff Matthews who
said, “A new Metro went by me the other day and, to tell you the truth,
I thought it was a Citroen AX. And that upset me, because if I can’t
tell them apart then what chance has the average motorist got? After
all, I designed the AX.”
Geoff went on to say, “It’s pointless asking the general public
properly to judge an advanced car. These are people with today’s eyes;
what do they know about tomorrow’s cars? They don’t have the
vision to see one step ahead. I know from experience that, if you
clinic potential small cars buyers in France, many will be Renault 5
owners: if your new car looks like a Renault 5, you’re flattering their
tastes and they’ll probably like it. They feel more comfortable with a
car that looks like their own. Clinics can slow progress. Some clinics,
of course, are run more professionally than others. You should only
take so much notice of a clinic. Some makers take too much.” I
suspect that at Peugeot-CitroŽn, the ultimate clinic is a very
conservative Board of Directors and despite most of the ‘Chrysler
Europe Gang’ being retired, the paradigm believed by senior management
at Peugeot-CitroŽn remains that the unusual loses money.
Geoff Matthews was fired by Luc Epron for defending a left-field
design. Carl Olsen told me “…the expressed goal of marketing and
the Direction was to kill off the traditions of the CitroŽn design
philosophy. This gang, from Chrysler Europe, believed that entry level
design cars had to be non challenging aesthetically. As you went
up the product range, models could become more challenging - hence the
XM which appeared as radical in the market at that time…”
In Stalinesque fashion, only a sanitised version of the past
is permitted. This allows images of the DS to be used for
marketing the new marque but without any mention whatsoever of how
revolutionary that car was – presumably because the majority of people
would then realise that the new marque bears no relationship at all to
the star of the 1955 Paris Salon.
All of which begs the question, should my website, CitroŽnŽt cover the
DS range?. If the DS range is to be included, should my site
extend its coverage to all marques owned by PSA? Clearly, those
DS models which bear the CitroŽn name and chevrons should be included.
I have decided to provide only
minimal and relevant coverage on my site
– if the company surprises everyone by launching a hydropneumatic DS or
some other, equally revolutionary technology or styling, I will cover
the story – although my take on it is likely to be ‘What a pity that
this couldn’t be used on a CitroŽn.’