Special Coverage

Auto Show

PARIS – Automobiles Citroen is using the biannual vehicle exposition here to show the public the new version of its mainline C4 car that has been expected, as well as the upscale version, the DS4, which will try to conquer new customers for the brand.

The Style Center also puts seriousness aside for a moment, offering a dose of whimsy with the Lacoste concept car, an open vehicle that recalls the Citroen Mehari of the ’70s and ’80s.

The Citroen C4 is the brand’s hatchback that battles the Renault Megane, Volkswagen Golf, Opel Astra and Ford Focus, as well as the C-segment’s up and comers.

The DS3, the first of the premium Citroens to reach the market, has sold better than anticipated. Frederic Banzet, the brand’s general manager, says the DS3 will replace the C4 as the race car used by Citroen’s winning rally teams.

Citroen is in a happy position. Banzet says the auto maker has gained a half-point of market share over the last 18 months in Europe. It also has sold more than 200,000 units in China this year.

“Creative Technology,” the slogan Citroen adopted in early 2009, drives all the product decisions at the brand, he says. The C4, for example, has a blind-spot detection system and a customizable instrument panel.

The Citroen Lacoste concept includes a roof that inflates when it rains and a back seat that slides around to reveal the storage area.

However, the Lacoste’s real purpose is to pursue what Citroen began exploring with the C-Cactus concept hybrid: How simple can a car be? Where the C-Cactus eliminated window cranks, the Lacoste has no windows.

“This concept informs our thinking about a modern, straightforward, attractively styled vehicle to meet the needs of customers looking for the essentials,” says Thierry Metroz, director of Style Citroen. “(It is) a car that reflects a new philosophy that seeks to get away from ‘more and more’ to concentrate on ‘better and better.’”

The association with clothier Lacoste SA seems incongruous. The car is a radical design, and the Lacoste name is associated with the classic alligator knit shirts of western wardrobes.

Not so, says Jean-Pierre Ploue, director of style for both Citroen and Automobiles Peugeot. In China, Citroen’s No.2 market, Lacoste is a popular brand of growing importance. The Citroen stand displays the concept wearables and accessories that Lacoste is planning. Citroen will continue its association with Lacoste beyond the concept car, he says.

The DS4 is headed for the market next year, with production at Mulhouse, France, sharing a line with the C4 that went on sale last week.

The car is being launched with stop/start micro-hybrid technology that with the brand’s most fuel-efficient diesel engine results in carbon-dioxide emissions of 109 g/km. About 5 g/km of savings is from the C4’s Michelin tires, designed to save energy.

Additionally, some 15% of the 441 lbs. (200 kg) of polymers in the car are recycled or natural materials, a record for parent PSA Peugeot Citroen.

The blind-spot system uses four ultrasound sensors in the bumpers to monitor activity out to 11.5 ft. (3.5 m) from the side of the car to 16 ft. (5 m) behind the bumper. It is activated between 7.5-87 mph (12-140 km/h).

The C4 also features a programmable speed limiter and cruise control. Five speeds can be pre-set and changed quickly as speed limits change.