PARIS - Jean-Pierre Ploue wants to restore Citroen's reputation as a pioneer of distinctive car design.
Ploue, 37, takes over as Citroen's chief designer this spring. He will replace Arthur Blakeslee, who is retiring in March.
PSA/Peugeot-Citroen Chairman Jean-Martin Folz and Executive Vice Presidents Claude Satinet (in charge of the Citroen brand) and Robert Peugeot (in charge of design teams) have big hopes for Ploue.
They believe he has the talent, international experience and energy that Citroen needs to erase its image as a producer of dull-looking cars.
'I don't have any negative feelings about what has been done by Art Blakeslee's team, especially if you look at the C6 or Pluriel concept cars,' said Satinet. 'But, inside Citroen, I don't think we had the man with the ability to lead the design team.'
PSA PLATFORM PLAN
Citroen's design team has been reorganized to follow PSA's platform structure.
Donato Coco, previously head of interior design, manages Citroen's small-car projects based on the so-called Platform 1. Those projects include the future supermini C3 and the mini - code named A8.
Bob Matthews is in charge of Platform 2, the B5 project that will become the successor to the Xsara.
Dan Abramson is head of Platform 3, on which the Xantia successor and a future top-of-the-range model will be based. The Xantia replacement is scheduled to be unveiled at this autumn's Paris auto show.
In recruiting a new chief designer, 'We wanted to find a man with international experience and a clear record of achievement. But we were also looking for a Frenchman,' said Satinet.
Ploue has a rich French background. He spent 10 years, from 1985-95, with Renault's design department, where he gained recognition for his work on the Twingo, the second-generation Clio and the 1994 Argos concept car.
'Ploue is a talented designer,' said Patrick Fournee, a member of Renault's design department. 'He made a lot of things happen at Renault. He belongs to the same class as Anne Asensio and Patrick Lecharpy (two of Renault's foremost designers). All three attended the same Paris design school.
'Citroen is a great French brand,' added Fournee. 'We hope that Ploue will succeed in reviving its reputation (for innovative design). We think he will get things moving and attract a number of new designers to Citroen.'
Ploue's first job will likely be to complete the design of Citroen's future top-of-the-range sedan, inspired by the C6 concept car seen at the Geneva auto show in March 1999.
Ploue will also have to forge a better design relationship with Gerard Welter, his counterpart at Peugeot. Welter has welcomed Ploue's appointment by saying: 'It's very good news for the PSA group.'