Paris 2016 / Citroen: Being different means not everyone will like us

citroen-c3-paris-2016-4Citroen C3

At the Paris Auto Show 2016 I had the privilege of interviewing Richard Meyer, Director of Future Products at Citroen France.

BSCB: Is your market positioning changing with the new generation C3?

Richard Meyer: Our objective with the new C3 is to offer a vehicle positioned at the heart of the B-Segment but with a peculiar response, that of Citroen. We are looking to challenge the rules of the automotive world and in particular the B-Segment, hence a unique morphology for the new model and extremely varied personalisation options, something that is very new on this segment. Add to this a series of innovations featured in the vehicle, such as the connected cam (an on-board camera positioned atop the windshield), all the while respecting the new design direction of Citroen. We want the C3 to be immediately perceived as a Citroen.

BSCB: Is the C3 a conquest vehicle for Citroen or do you primarily target Citroen owners?

Richard Meyer: This is for us a very strategic vehicle that replaces the current C3, of which 3.5 million units were sold. So obviously one of our objectives is of customer loyalty and this vehicle answers the expectations of our current customers in terms of safety, comfort, ease of use and versatility. It is also aimed at conquering customers outside of the brand, notably through the personalisation options that bring a lot of novelty and freshness to the segment.

citroen-c3-interior-paris-2016-2

citroen-c3-interior-paris-2016-1Citroen C3 interior details 

BSCB: If you had to choose between customer loyalty and conquest for the C3, which would it be?

Richard Meyer: We have chosen not to choose between the two and aim at both.

BSCB: Where would the conquest be coming from: what marques do you consider Citroen competing with in the market?

Richard Meyer: Citroen is a “People-minded brand” (in English during the interview), so our approach starts from customers. We are looking to really understand the customers we are speaking with, what are their expectations and habits, and then make sure we are meeting theses expectations, rather than hunt on the territory of such and such brand.

citroen-cxperience-conceptCitroen Cxperience Concept 

BSCB: You unveiled the Cxperience Concept at the Show. What production-ready elements does it showcase?

Richard Meyer: The C-Xperience Concept’s objective is to demonstrate how to unfold the brand’s positioning, its creativity, its audacity, an international angle on the large sedan segment. We are focusing on two major elements: first the design, here too challenging the habitual codes for this segment with for example its two-tiered light signature at the front of the vehicle, but also the mobile elements placed on the body to optimise aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. The second element revolves around comfort, through the Citroen Advanced Comfort program, whose objective is to find efficient and smart comfort solutions to answer our customers’ expectations in that domain.

We have a very modern approach of comfort, through of course suspension systems but also everyday pragmatism and connectivity. C-Xperience illustrates some of the solutions we are currently working on, including a much larger digital interface, “wrapping” sound system through the seats and enhanced connectivity with a new app called “Share with you” enabling all passengers of a vehicle to seamlessly share music playlists and data between their smartphones and with the central console of the vehicle. These are a few axis of digital continuity we are developing to improve the well-being of our customers inside our vehicles.

Citroen C4 Cactus France March 2015. Picture courtesy of largus.frCitroen C4 Cactus 

BSCB: Two years ago, the C4 Cactus inaugurated the new creative technology motto of the brand with a controversial design. Commercially speaking it is still finding its groove. What could have been done better?

Richard Meyer: The C4 Cactus is an extremely important vehicle for us: it is the emblem of the new positioning of the brand, of its new philosophy and promise of “Be Different, Feel Good”. It has indeed introduced a very strong and unique design language that has challenged the rules. We are 100% inside the Citroen philosophy. In terms of comfort and well-being, it has smarts that simplify everyday life. Having said that it is a polarising vehicle. Our philosophy as an international brand at the heart of the market is to offer asperities. When trying to please everyone you end up with average vehicles that may struggle to be really successful. Our objective, clearly, is to please as many people as possible, but while doing that we accept that we may displease more people than the average manufacturer. There is a subtle tuning to find, because it is not the same depending on the segment and the regions of the world where we are selling. Nevertheless we want to offer world vehicles, so this is a challenge we have accepted. With the new C3 I think we have found the right tuning.

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