Citroën was once the blithe, adventurous carmaker who always went against all norms, be they styling or engineering conventions. The French cars looked like nothing else on the roads, and Citroën’s technical innovations often proved to be as crazy as they were pioneering.
Citroën gave us the first front-wheel drive unibody production car and set the template for most cars today way back in the Thirties with the Traction Avant. The 2CV became a national icon and mobilised post-war France with four million sold over a four-decade production run. The DS, the ‘Goddess’, is still one of the prettiest objects ever designed, Flaminio Bertoni’s dream of the future, there and then in the Fifties. Citroën had so many hits on their hands, but in the Nineties, the duds started to surface.
That French nonchalance and originality that had innovated so much before, turned to a series of marketing blunders as Citroën attempted to spiritually resurrect the legendary 2CV with a plasticky C3 Pluriel convertible (you had to remove the roof and leave it behind…), and a disastrous attempt to move upmarket and compete with BMW and Mercedes.
It was hard to understand the French reasoning from the get-go, because Citroën said their all-new C6 luxury saloon was to be a low-volume car anyway, they just didn’t figure how low-volume it would really be.
The front-wheel drive C6 could never turn people away form their E-Classes and 5 Series, and Citroën missed its mark of 20,000 sales a year by a long shot. In fact after three years on the market they still hadn’t reached 20,000 sales. Stubbornly they kept the big five-meter long C6 going and finally crossed the 20,000 mark, seven years after launch, as they discontinued it.
Today you could find a fully-loaded C6 (active spoiler, head-up display, lands-departure warning!) with hydropneumatic suspension and a 3.0-litre V6 for nothing, but the C6 dud can hardly be considered a worthy bearer of the DS legacy...