Vincent Cobee is the current boss of Citroën, a former head of Mitsubishi and Datsun and has thus far enjoyed the sort of career that even other people’s parents would have to describe as stellar, earning academic and business accolades at every step.
Maybe more crucially, the 52-year-old Frenchman is something of a philosopher, with a keen sense of winning over his audience, his charm extending to ordering fish-and-chips and quoting key lines from Autocar articles on a recent visit to the UK.
Despite taking the top job in January 2020, and thereby facing a baptism that perhaps only wartime eras could rival, Cobée has commanding views on everything from today’s struggles to tomorrow’s potential disruptions. In his certainty, he’s very much like his boss, Carlos Tavares.
On Citroën’s purpose he is clear – or, to take a word he uses often himself, militant: “I don’t believe in the race to add more equipment, to add more range, to add ultimately more weight. I want us to build cars with courage that suit a need and have a focus on continuing to provide the freedom of mobility, and that includes accessibility of price.”
While talk of the eye-catching Ami dominates, he’s at pains to describe it as “just one expression of Citroën.” The philosophy it expresses is core: “Mobility gives you life, yet we’re entering a world where it will be restricted. The cost of transport is going to become a restraint. We see that asan innovation trigger. Not quirky and occasionally successful. We must bring solutions to real problems.”
The new C5X, at once an SUV, saloon and estate, is an example of this philosophy. “We don’t feel any obligation to repeat what we’ve done in the past,” explains Cobée. “Some industry colleagues are on generation eight of the same car; we prefer to evolve with the situationwe find ourselves in. The C5X is flowing, elegant and fluid, not a bulky SUV.”