Currently reading: New Citroen boss on the C1's future, MPVs and missing WRC
Citroen's new CEO Vincent Cobee outlines his plans for the French brand beyond 2020
Rachel Burgess
News
4 mins read
8 June 2020

Vincent Cobée became CEO of Citroën earlier this year, taking over from Brit Linda Jackson. We talk to the Frenchman about his plans for the brand.

What’s your longer-term sales target globally?

“I don’t have a crystal ball about how and when we will come out of this particular crisis, so no forecast from me for this year or even 2021.

“By 2025/26, I would say [we can sell] one million cars in Europe if the market remains above 16 million overall. Globally, we’re aiming for 1.5 million, so Europe would make up two-thirds. “By that time, we will bring to bear all the products we’ve prepared, which should give us that potential. But it’s very likely the market situation will be heavily shaken [given recent events].”

When will services other than selling cars make up a large part of your business?

“The new business model of ride-hailing and car-sharing is much less than 1% of our business.

For Ami, my assumption is that cash sales will make up a quarter, lease might be 60% or 70% and shared ownership might be 10%.

“Tomorrow, will that remain the same in the new balance of health and individual protection versus public transport? Maybe not. I can perfectly imagine that in the not-too-distant future, people will look for individual transportation in cities.”

Is Citroën’s model line-up the right size?

“The past 15 years have been complex. Car makers had A, B and C-segment hatches, C, D and E-segment saloons and a sports coupé. Then came SUVs, and every car maker in Europe had to manage a dual line-up with SUV parallels.

“Some ended up with 13 body types when they had six before. Add increasing powertrain costs, the complexity of managing CO2 and profitability pressure with intense competitiveness, and everybody is looking for rationalisation.

“Most car makers should be able to stabilise between five and 10 cars. If you’re below five, you’re starting to struggle in terms of offering continuity. You will be continuously quiet, you’re not at the forefront of buyers’ minds. If you have more than eight, it starts to become hard to manage development, regulations, demonstration and launches.

“As far as Citroën is concerned, the ideal situation is that we have six or seven global silhouettes and five are present in most countries. We aren’t far off.”

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Can the C1 city car live for another generation?

“The C1 is a very competitive and appropriate car in the segment, but the segment is subject to a number of challenges: obviously the regulatory one, plus basic equipment requirements and tougher emissions standards, all of which drive the costs up. This segment is extremely price-sensitive.

“We’ve not finalised our position on the future [of the C1], but for sure the Ami is a partial answer to similar needs. If you look at electric city cars, how many passengers are in that car? Two. Average distance? 15 miles. Can’t Ami do this for the same price?”

Will the C4 Spacetourer be replaced?

“In short, MPVs as they are will be difficult to reproduce. We will continue to sell the C4 Spacetourer as long as we can – as long as we can make it and as long as we can find customers. We’ll keep on upgrading the existing car but, for a next generation, we’ll need to know what’s the next big thing after SUVs.

“We made sure the C5 Aircross kept three independent seats – one reason for MPVs’ popularity.”

What lessons has Citroën learned from China about post-pandemic life?

“First, internet-based sales or direct sales can and probably will take a larger share of total sales.

“Second, the industry is very exposed financially if we build to stock. A normal car maker carries two months’ worth of stock. If the market disappears, this represents an amount similar or higher than the cash in the company. This is why you see a number of OEMs with massive risks on their free cashflow – luckily not [Citroën parent] PSA.

“What you can see in China is a focus on a limited diversity of product being manufactured for stock. If you have 10 cars, five powertrains and three trims, you already have 150 combinations without options. Many OEMs have decided to start production of 10 rather than 150.

“These are standard business processes in times of peace and are massive liabilities in times of war, if we consider the current crisis as war. The industry will shift away from building to stock.”

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Does Citroen miss its involvement in WRC?

"The first thing to note: Citroen has an amazing recent history in motorsport. The number of championship wins, races wins and even private races, the credibility, the experience, the know-how when it comes to rally - we should recognise and celebrate that achievement.

"A decision was made in late 2019 to exit WRC for reasons I don’t know in detail. I do understand and respect the decision. The destination of the sport was probably not fitting with what Citroen wanted to do and there was a growing disconnect between WRC and its fans and what the brand was promoting in terms of product. It’s a rational if tough decision. Whether in some years, another decision will come, maybe - we never say never - but for time being that’s the way it is and I’m okay with it."

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Rick Maverick 8 June 2020

Future Cit models

The C3, C3 AC and C5AC sell well. 

June 30st, th C4 III will be unveiled - controvesy its fate

End of 2020, the C5 is next - a looker! 

VicciV 8 June 2020

Forgot

She forgot to ask about the C5/C6 successor.

Lessis More 8 June 2020

Agree, and it's not just

Agree, and it's not just Citroen, it's most of the WRC.  I can only imagine there's a good reason why they don't offer sporty-looking warm & hot hatches, associated with championship heroes.  I just can't imagine what on earth that good reason might be.

MrJ 8 June 2020

The amazing thing (to me) is

The amazing thing (to me) is that Citroen has not leveraged its WRC success by producing showroom cars that echo the looks of rally racers.

After all, chunky Tonka-Toy styling sells SUVs, even if most of them are driven no further off-road than a supermarket car park.

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