TURIN — Citroen CEO Linda Jackson laid out a road map for the reinvention of the French automaker shortly after being named to her post in 2014. Four years later, Citroen's core model strategy is on track, with five new vehicles, including successful global launches of the C3 Aircross and C5 Aircross, Citroen's first SUVs. Richard Meyer, 53, the brand's future product planning director, is focused on the effort to update Citroen's portfolio. He spoke with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Peter Sigal during the Automotive News Europe Congress here about the brand's next steps.
Q: Citroen is concentrating on the small and compact segments. Can the brand also find success in minicars or larger vehicles?
A: Our core model strategy has eight international body styles, which means we can't be present everywhere, but we are working on a product range that will cover the main profit pools in the world.
We have some customers in segments outside of B and C [small and compact], and we have to meet their expectations, but maybe we do so with a different answer than the expected ones. Our ambition is to lure customers outside the B and C segments, but by using a specific Citroen answer.
The C3 small hatchback is one of Citroen's most successful models, but it is still on an older platform. When will it be updated on PSA Group's Common Modular Platform?
First, customers don't look at the platform. The design, comfort and connectivity are the main requirements from a customer point of view. The C3 ticks all these boxes. That is why it's a success, whatever the platform. That being said, we are working on new-energy solutions. In 2020, we will have our first new vehicles with a new generation of electric powertrain.
Citroen has a recognizable design language. Has work begun on the next generation?
We have defined product and style markers that are important to ensure consistency between the different products, and at the same time we are working on ways to evolve these markers. All these elements will change in the coming years, but what is most important is keeping the DNA of the brand, such as the advanced comfort approach.
How will Citroen be different in 10 years?
It's difficult to answer, but the DNA of the brand will be present. I think Citroen will still be challenging the rules in terms of design and will be the reference point in terms of comfort. The models won't be the same. In terms of powertrains, we will have a combination of different solutions because we are an international brand, but the speed of new-energy vehicle adoption won't be the same.
How is Citroen getting ready for the move toward self-driving vehicles?
We know there are huge expectations regarding autonomous vehicles. Today, we're already at a very good level with the first step toward autonomy in the new C5 Aircross, which has our Highway Driver Assist system (adaptive cruise control with lane positioning). We have a fleet of autonomous vehicle test cars. We have been testing them with customers, and we are tuning development to fit their expectations.
Why did Citroen need an overhaul?
What caused this was the separation of the DS brand from Citroen in 2014. Previously, DS was a product line within Citroen. We had to redefine the brand positioning for Citroen. It was a great opportunity to understand where we wanted to put Citroen in the future.
Citroen has a sales target of 1.6 million vehicles by 2020. Is the brand's success based on sales, or are there some other measurements?
Volume is part of the success that we are targeting, but it is not the only component. We are targeting customer satisfaction — we want to be one of the top three recommended brands worldwide — and, of course, we have profitability targets.