PARIS - Citroen has confirmed it will build the Pluriel, the versatile convertible supermini seen as a concept at last year's Frankfurt auto show.
The Pluriel could be described as three vehicles in one - sedan, convertible or pickup. It has a full-length folding fabric roof and collapsible rear seats.
Production is expected to start in 2002. It will be built in France at one of two PSA/Peugeot-Citroen SA plants, either Aulnay-sous-Bois or Poissy.
The Pluriel will be sold alongside the C3, the replacement for the Saxo supermini seen as a concept at the Paris auto show in 1998. The C3 was given the production go-ahead last year. It will go on sale in 2001 or early 2002.
With the Peugeot Vingtcoeur, the coupe-cabrio that received production approval in 1998, the Pluriel and C3 will give PSA a strong new presence in the small-car segment.
Citroen insiders believe the C3 and Pluriel will revive the brand's reputation for innovation and adventurous design. Some industry commentators have greeted the Pluriel as the 2CV reborn.
The legendary 2CV was launched in 1948. Production continued in France until 1988 and in Portugal until 1991. A total of 3.3 million 2CVs were built, plus 3.4 million van, Ami and Dyane derivatives.
But Jean-Christophe Bolle-Reddat, the PSA body architect responsible for building the Vingtcoeur, C3 and Pluriel concept cars, has rejected the 2CV link.
If there is an element of the old car in Pluriel, he said, it is only that the Pluriel 'might evoke a pleasurable memory of some aspect of driving the 2CV.'
If the Pluriel has an ancestor, it is the Citroen Mehari, Bolle-Reddat said. The Mehari was a 1970s plastic-paneled sport-utility.
Nonetheless, the Pluriel takes design cues from the 2CV. Stylized corrugations run the length of the vehicle on both sides, reflecting the primitive bodywork of early 2CVs.
For prototyping purposes, the Pluriel shared the Peugeot 206 cabrio platform and running gear with the Vingtcoeur. A dedicated platform now has been developed for the Pluriel, which will likely be shared with the C3.