• Jan 9th 2010 at 11:37AM
  • 19
Hope for France: Left to right, Gilles Vidal, Jean-Pierre Ploué and Thierry Metroz

There was a time when "France" and "design" were nearly synonymous, at least in the automotive sphere. Delahaye, Voisin, Bugatti, Talbot-Lago (including the high-water mark Figoni et Falaschi "Tear Drop" cars), etc. Prewar, no one had anything on the French. Even Peugeot and Citroën were in on the action; the former producing the elegant 402 and the latter building the glorious Traction Avant.

However, after the Great Depression and post-WW2 auto shakeout, the scenery changed. Sure, Citroën still had a few design masterpieces left in the tank - the 2CV, the DS and SM. Peugeot made some excellent cars (205, 404) but they certainly weren't lookers. Then a few years back, Peugeot bought Citroën. Since that time, Peugeots have become wildly bizarre-looking, while Citroën has produced exactly one beauty, the C6. Point being, France's automotive designs are a far cry from their prewar glory days.

PSA Peugeot Citroën wants to change that trajectory. Under PSA design leadership of Jean-Pierre Ploué, Gilles Vidal has taken over design of Peugeot and Thierry Metroz is now in charge of how Citroëns look. Metroz might have an easy time of it, as Ploué has to some degree set Citroën on a halfway righteous path. Again, we're big fans of the big C6 and in truth, the C3 and DS3 are pretty much OK-looking as well. Monsieur Gilles, however, has his work cut out for him. Have you looked at a 3008 or an 807 lately? Not so hot.

[Source: CAR]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 19 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Wow, this post is way off the mark.

      While French cars have never been synonymous with quality, their design has always been unique. Even recently. Take the Citroen C1, C3 Pluriel, C4 3-door, new C3 Picasso, new C5, and the GT by Citroen, or the new Citroen C3 with the giant windshield, or the new DS3, as well as all those crazy concept cars. Or the new Renault Megane Coupe, or the new Renault Laguna, or the Peugeot 107.. Few of these cars are particularly good all-around vehicles, but they all have a unique design.

      That's why people buy French cars... the unique design.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I partly agree with you and the design is no doubt the main reason why us Europeans buy them. I remeber example C4 won 2006 World Car Design of the Year(no i have no idea if this is really a major award). Actually got a neighbour here in Finland who got the "WRC C4" and it just looks amazing.
        Thought i do agree with the text in the sense that especially in the past 2 years they haven't really been that special looking. Expect the C6 and DS3.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The 205 was designed in-house by Gerard Welter. Dunno where this Pininfarina legend keeps coming back from.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The DS3 certainly looks okay, but the fact that they had the gaul (har har) to slap the DS name on it makes me sick
      • 5 Years Ago
      I usually don't write here, but I have to protest this vaguely misguided post. Though design is subjective, Peugeot was making quite attractive cars even under the design direction of Gerard Welter, big mouths and all. Though I've heard many criticisms levelled at the actual quality of Peugeots of the past few years few, if any, were levelled at the designs. Furthermore, it's downright insulting to the good work done by Mark Lloyd over at Citroen for the past few years to say none of their cars were beautiful.

      Also, I'm mouth-agape horrified by the description of the mentioned (Pininfarina-designed) Peugeots being ugly, when common consensus is that most everything they did, up to and including the 406 Coupe - often lauded as one of the most attractive cars ever - was considered stunning. Tssk, Autoblog, thou protests too much about cars you seemingly have little real-world knowledge of...
      • 5 Years Ago
      Saw a new Citroen C5 two nights ago, and was utterly confused. I had no idea what it was till we passed it. It's quite a looker too in the flesh.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Peugeot, Citroën get new design chiefs" Yeah, Michael Madsen, Harvey Keitel, and Steve Buscemi.

      "Why do I have to be Mr. Pink?"
      • 5 Years Ago
      So I guess Autoblog doesn't want to give GT by Citroen credit. strange... for me at least
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Sure, Citroën still had a few design masterpieces left in the tank - the 2CV, the DS and SM. Peugeot made some excellent cars (205, 404) but they certainly weren't lookers."

      The DS, 205 and 404 not 'lookers'! Hello!!!

      The DS is one of the most sublimely beautiful cars ever made, the 205 is a jewel, and the 404 was a Pininfarina hymn to elegance.

      What planet are you from?
        • 5 Years Ago
        "If you re-read what I wrote (and what you copied and pasted) you will see thta I called the DS a masterpiece."

        ...and you said it wasn't a looker. It was, and is, exceptional in every way, including the way it looks.
        • 5 Years Ago
        If you re-read what I wrote (and what you copied and pasted) you will see thta I called the DS a masterpiece.

        • 5 Years Ago
        "Sure, Citroën still had a few design masterpieces left in the tank - the 2CV, the DS and SM."

        Is it that hard to read?
        • 5 Years Ago
        "So, please reread what I wrote, as you are somehow missing the meaning."

        I have no wish to be contentious, really, but the words said that the mentioned cars were not lookers: "weren't lookers".

        If I misunderstood I am sorry.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Hey Colin,

        Not only did I clearly call the DS a "design masterpiece," but I'm a member of the Citroen Club of Hollywood. The SM is my absolute favorite car in the world, followed by the DS.

        So, please reread what I wrote, as you are somehow missing the meaning.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Don't think I could disagree more.
      I think some of the french designs are the most interesting and innovative.
      In contrast we have had domestic US design reduced in the last 10 years to changing the number of chrome bars on the grill and trying to fit even bigger pointless wheel/tire combos.
      All that aside from the tireless and sometimes very successful retro designs which the new beetle kicked off around the world.
      I think if funny that you list the 2CV as a design masterpiece.
      It is, but it only comes to light after years and years of production of the useful and flexible little car.
      I am pretty confident that if you saw it on day one you would have denounced it as you do so many other clever modern designs - such as the peugeot bb1.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The Peugeot 205 wasn't a looker?

      Looks may be subjective, but for a class B supermini, the 205 was widely praised - and still is - for its chic Pininfarina styling. The dimensions were pretty much spot on and the design still looks sharp today.


      "Then a few years back, Peugeot bought Citroen. Then a few years back, Peugeot bought Citroën. Since that time, Peugeots have become wildly bizarre-looking”

      Funny, given that the 1990's 306 was a Pininfarina design widely praised for being for one of the best looking hatchbacks in it's class. It’s a similar design success story with the 1988 405. And the 1995 406. Or the 1990 106. None of these designs - and I could go on - were ‘wildly bizarre looking.’ The design period you are referring to arguably began in 2001 with the styling of the wide-mouthed 307 (some may say the 607 launched in 1999. Neither are lookers).

      2001 is some time after 1976 when Peugeot bought Citroen, Jonny.


      “Citroën has produced exactly one beauty, the C6.”

      The Citroen BX from the 1980’s was a quirky yet stylish design that is still admired today. The 1990 XM, whilst polarising, was certainly in keeping with the brands avangarde roots - nothing looks like it on the road, and the car was the natural successor to the DS.

      Citroen design arguably took a nose-dive in the early 1990’s, when much of the quirky styling and unusual engineering of the cars was abandoned in favour of mass-market appeal and greater profitability. The dull styling of the Saxo and Xsara, in particular, from this period reflect this. However, Citroen design staged a comeback of sorts in recent years; the C4 is certainly distinctive, and the 2007 C5 has been widely praised for its good looks, and the C3 Picasso is very attractive.

      I know this post is an opinion, but the inaccuracy and downright ignorance is shocking. Better to just report the news of a new design team if you have nothing of substance or quality to say...
      • 5 Years Ago
      Haha americans complaining about design on cars they can't even buy. Ever wondered why PSA don't offer any cars in the US but are successfull everywhere else? It's because the US auto market rewards boring blandness and boring (and the top three sellers are not cars but pickups).
        • 5 Years Ago
        Argh I messed up the grammar again :(
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