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Citroën A8 - the new 2CV?

Citroën's new Segment B competitor, based on the C3 Concept Car will look like this according to French motoring magazine l'Auto Journal in its "exclusive" edition dated 24th February 2000.

L'Auto Journal described the car as "La Nouvelle 2CV ".

The story was picked up by British motoring magazine Auto Express in its 5th April 2000 edition with exactly the same pictures and with the same strapline.

The week after publishing these pictures, one of their journalists 'phoned me to get "the Citroën enthusiast's view".  I told him that I thought that his magazine had gone off half-cocked in describing it as a "New 2CV" and that if any new Citroën deserved this appellation, it would be the Pluriel and that even then, I felt it would do both the 2CV and the Pluriel a disservice to describe it as a "New 2CV".
 

 

So, in the next edition they wrote:
Fans blast new 2CV
FANS of Citroen's 2CV have slammed the French car maker over the styling of its spiritual successor. The new car - first shown as the wacky C3 concept has been transformed into the traditional hatchback we featured in Issue 596. 
That has angered owners of the classic original. Lee Ross from Leicester drives a rare 1985 Beachcomber limited edition and said Citroen had 'chickened out'. He told us: "I thought Citroen was about to get radical again, but the new car is nothing like the C3."
Linda Rose from High Wycombe, Bucks, has two 2CV6s. She is 'bitterly disappointed' by the A8: "It hasn't got that little something the 2CV had. The badge may be Citroen, but it could be anything." A Citroen spokesman said: 'We have shown a stylish way ahead with the Xsara Picasso. We're confident that when we launch a production car based on the C3, it will be equally impressive."
But with the launch planned for 2002, he stressed a roadgoing name for the car was still a long way off. A phone vote among Auto Express readers following a feature in Issue 565 selected 'Xone' as the most suitable name for the C3 concept.

I therefore decided to e-mail the editor as follows:-

Dear Sir
Richard Yarrow approached me as Press Relations Officer for the Citroën Car Club for the Club's opinions on the A8. Unfortunately my contribution either arrived too late or was ignored since it differs from the view your magazine wished to propagate.
Firstly, I would like to make it clear that the following are my personal views and not necessarily those of the Club.
My contacts at Citroën tell me that your pictures have been doctored on a computer and are not wholly accurate - in particular the base of the windscreen is too high. I showed my copy of Auto Express to my local Citroën dealer who observed that the vehicle pictured is bang up-to-date and looks like a viable competitor to the "new Beetle" which in turn means that it will be out-of-date when it is launched two years hence.
Can one blame PSA for adopting a safe course that does not alienate potential customers? In recent pronouncements, Citroën has stated that it is their intention to build cars that are interesting to drive, that are individualistic in styling but which share mechanical components with other PSA vehicles. It is only in the driver/vehicle interface (and styling) that there will be parts that are unique to each marque. This would seem to mean an end to vehicles like the Saxo/106 and yet the Saxo is the best-selling Citroën ever. How tempting it must be therefore for PSA to repeat the Saxo/106 formula. And I have no doubt that there is a faction within PSA that is expressing precisely this view.
But the biggest problem that Citroën is up against is that of you, the media. When the company manufactured avant-garde vehicles that were unlike anything else on the road, the press here in Britain criticised them for being "quirky" and the punters stayed away in their hundreds of thousands. Now that Citroën build "normal" cars (which are bought in huge numbers), the media criticises them for being unadventurous. Damned if they do and damned if they don't. Specifically the media described the 2CV as slow, noisy, ugly and offering poor crash protection. It is only now that the media belatedly recognises the very real virtues of the car.
And you at Auto Express are guilty of describing this new model as the "new 2CV". Nowhere in the official literature from Neuilly or Slough is such a suggestion made regarding the C3. Safety legislation and environmental concerns mean that it is just not possible to build a "new 2CV" - a vehicle of rustic simplicity that can be worked on by the local "forgeron". The world has changed since 1949 and the "forgeron” has undoubtedly gone out of business - he is probably a dot com entrepreneur now. Lamenting the fact that the A8/C3 is not a 2CV is like lamenting that my PC is not an Adler typewriter. The 2CV represented a set of solutions to the problems of mobility in the aftermath of WW2 and many of those solutions are no longer viable; furthermore the problems have also changed.

Yours etc.,

Needless to say, it wasn't published.

© 2000 Julian Marsh, L'Auto Journal, Auto Express