I can tell you to the day when I last spoke to departed Citroën boss Vincent Cobée, because I was by that point a matter of hours from having a wisdom tooth removed, an electric saw making sounds in my mouth that I’ll struggle to forget.

It was in a cold NEC show hall the afternoon of 26 January - just 28 days ago - and there wasn’t the remotest hint that he would be gone less than a month later.

He had flown into Birmingham the night before, charmed the Citroën UK team and then gone on stage (no notes or autocue, as always) and delivered a pitch-perfect address to the dealership body. 

I spent half an hour in the hall with them; they were ecstatic at what they had heard, and while that’s the purpose of such moments, there must have been times in Citroën’s recent history when it was hard to buy into such moments.

After lunch, Cobée strolled from one hall to another, chatting, laughing and joking with those around him, and then talked me around the fascinating Citroën Oli concept car, a take on a stripped-back but fun motoring future.

I had met Cobée before, and there was no way my impending surgery was going to stop me from meeting him again. For a journalist, at least, he’s one of the best of the best, a free-talker with a grasp of the big picture and an ability to express his thoughts with an eloquence and passion that only the very biggest and most confident of leaders can. His career trajectory suggests that all those superlatives apply to his ability to run a car company, too.

It was, as I had hoped, mesmerising. So much so that I decided to write the subsequent feature in his own words, better to ensure the feature expressed exactly what he had said, as he had said it, and give the reader an opportunity to enjoy some of the magic I had enjoyed.



If there was any hint that he was going to leave, perhaps it was that he invited me to drive the Oli, something that had been expressly forbidden by the support team. Even then, he seemed to rather enjoy (politely and kindly) reminding them that he was the CEO and so his invitation would stand regardless of what they thought.