Steering Column 13.02.09

Dramatic fall in new car sales compels French car maker to opt for make-over

The fresh connection The French car manufacturer Citroën has decided to face up to the crippling drop in new car sales with a complete make-over.

The company is 90 years old this year and to celebrate it is introducing a whole range of turn-arounds from a re-working of the famous twin chevron badge to the introduction of a new range of cars.

Citroën says it is reinventing itself and adds, almost with an air of thinly disguised panic, that it “aims to pursue the excitement generated by the success of its products launched over the past 10 years by enhancing the Citroën brand to strengthen and support the range”.

What you’re going to see is the angular badge of the car take on a more rounded and three-dimensional look. I won’t bore you with the ad-agency drivel that surrounds the rationale, but keep an eye out for it. It looks good.

On the adverts and literature you’re going to see a new catch-line too – “Creative Technologie”. It’s French, not a typo.

There will be changes to the look of the company’s sales website, the architecture of the shops and, we’re told, the way the dealers approach customers.

The most important stuff comes under the banner of used vehicles where there will be things like new finance options, extra offers on extended guarantees, maintenance and servicing and an international roadside assistance package.

The new range of cars will be known as the DS series. Much as the main range is currently known as the C cars – C2, C3, C4 etc. – the new range will be known as DS3, DS4, DS5 etc.

There is little else said but the first DS concept car called the “DS Inside” (don’t ask) will be shown this year at international car shows. Watch this space for details.

Hilux heavies If you thought last weekend’s snow was a driving challenge, take a butchers at any internet video clips you can find of the recent Amundsen Omega3 South Pole Race.

Toyota put up four specially-adapted Hilux double cab pick-up trucks as support vehicles and they were found to be more adaptable than the traditional tracked vehicles … quicker, more economical and more comfy.

My one gripe with the current Hilux is that it dwarfs its wheels and so looks fat and top-heavy. Not the ones that went to the pole. Adapted in Iceland by the company Arctic Trucks, these beasts have absolutely massive wheels, bolted on to replacement axles and suspensions, which are in turn bolted on to adapted chassis.

Supporting the 483-mile skiing challenge meant the cars and their custom-built trailers had to lug loads up to 2.5 tonnes and drive over 2,000 miles each over rough, frozen terrain in temperatures dipping to minus 30ºC.

Last weekend I saw a Hilux in a snowy ditch near Tingwall. It wouldn’t have happened if the driver had been in one of these monsters.

Kia curiosity Kia is being a bit coy about revealing too much about a new vehicle it is preparing to launch.

The company says the star of its stand at next month’s Geneva motor show will “redefine the mini MPV segment, bringing style and cool to what is currently a bland segment of the new car market”.

Little more is known except that it has a glass roof and is said to be very spacious. We’ll know more soon enough though. Details will be revealed on 3rd March.

Mike Grundon


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