LUCA CIFERRI

The end is near for the French flagship sedan

Luca Ciferri is Automotive News Europe's Editor-in-Chief.Luca Ciferri is Automotive News Europe's Editor-in-Chief.
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France will no longer have a domestically produced flagship when output of the Citroen C6 ends later this month. The C6's demise marks the end of an era in France that reached its pinnacle in the 1950s. That was when the first Citroen DS sedan arrived.

The iconic shark-shaped car proved that the French could compete with any automaker in Europe in making a truly premium large sedan.

The C6 and the 1955 DS are both large sedans made by the same parent, but that is where the similarities end.

The Citroen DS debuted in 1955.

The original DS was a dream car that pulled people away from Mercedes-Benz while Citroen has been unable to make the C6 competitive against the German premium brands. Only 556 C6s were sold in Europe in the first 10 months of this year. It's easy to understand why Citroen had to halt production of the car. Sister brand Peugeot also has quit the large sedan segment.

That means Patriotic French consumers looking for a large sedan might be in trouble. Sure, Renault makes the Latitude, but many car buyers in France have shunned the car because it is a rebadge of the Samsung SM5, which is imported from South Korea. Through October, Renault sold 3,792 Latitudes, which is a decline of almost 59 percent from the same period last year, JATO's numbers show.

Renault will soon decide whether to develop a new flagship sedan that would share it underpinnings with the Mercedes E class. The new car would be sold under Renault's near-premium Initiale Paris sub-brand.

But one has to wonder whether Renault should follow Peugeot and Citroen and abandon the large sedan segment, which is dominated by the BMW 5 series (101,600 sales in Europe after 10 months); the Audi A6 (89,300); and the E class (86,400). In Europe, this market segment speaks German. It is time for France to realize this.

You can reach Luca Ciferri at lciferri@crain.com.

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