“C3 fits into Citroen’s motto and my own belief in One DNA for the world”

S. Muralidhar | | Updated on: Jul 28, 2022
Pierre Leclercq, Head of Design, Citroen

Pierre Leclercq, Head of Design, Citroen

The man behind the modern face of C3—Pierre Leclercq— speaks about how Citroen goes the extra mile to ensure that the DNA is captured in all their vehicles

Citroen has just finished scripting the second chapter of its India innings. One in which it will launch a string of vehicles that are India-focused but are also globally relevant. The new C3 will be one of many new vehicles that will be born out of its C-cubed platform. And the French brand hopes that this SUVish-hatch will be a disruptor in a market that is already saturated with sub-compact SUVs. One of the aspects about the C3 that Citroen expects will work in its favour is the honest, yet unique design language.

And the man behind the modern fascia of the C3 is Pierre Leclercq, Head of Design, Citroen. He has designed cars for Ford, MINI, Kia, Great Wall and even BMW M. Speaking to the BusinessLine, Pierre says that designing the C3 had its own set of challenges.

Excerpts from the interview:

How did you approach the design for C3? What were your objectives when you started out sketching the C3?

Every time we come to India, we learn a lot by talking to all our stakeholders. The Indian market is so different from the rest of the automobile markets, and so learning new things is very important. I was lucky enough to come a couple of years ago and talk to some customers at the beginning of the C3 project. And we were discussing their cars, many of them from competing brands. The idea was to get a window into their lives, and try to understand their lifestyle— why were they proud of their cars and how they accessorised and made them their own. The insights and learnings from these visits were eye-openers for us. 

The other aspect that is unique for India is, of course, the proportions that we need to work with for the car; I mean the sub-four-metre regulation. It is a challenge for us when we want to offer more interior space in the car based on strong customer feedback. When we built the architecture of the car, we wanted to ensure a lot of interior space. Of course, it should look exciting, while being under four metres in length. So, with proportions that needed to fit this metric it became quite natural to bring it into the territory of a SUVish-hatch. This also fits into my strong belief in ‘One DNA for the world’. So, when you get into the product plan, whether it is a car for India, Latin America or France, the vehicles must reflect the same form language of simplicity. 

Do you see a universality in design that works across markets despite inherent differences in tastes and preferences?

Yes. There are some expectations that are universal and one of the identities of a Citroen is comfort. That is the first thing we always try to bring to our customers. Of course, a lot of that depends on engineering. But it is also how we use interiors, functionality, intuitivity etc., to play a role in the comfort factor. The One DNA design language will also make sure that C-cubed platform vehicles bear the same language across markets. We at Citroen always try to push as far as we can to ensure the DNA is captured in all our vehicles. The sub-four-metre size limitation was restrictive, even though it is something that European brands and their urban small car design experience makes them capable of handling. It was also a unique challenge to handle the verticality of the design because of the need to give it a SUVish-hatch positioning. 

This platform is also going to spawn a battery-electric vehicle (BEV) and there are going to be more top hats. How are you going to build a hierarchy for this model line?

Yes, there is going to be a BEV and other top hats with different dimensions. Without revealing details of future cars, I can say that we will have a family of vehicles that is completely coherent with one DNA. They will be clever with common parts, shared components etc., but will be completely different in dimensions, in character and in silhouette. So, they will reach completely different customers. 

While on the subject of model-hierarchy, I must also mention that there are daring features, and in the case of the C3 daring colours, and that is very Citroen. This brand is willing to take risks– for example, the little electric Ami that is sold in Europe. When the Ami came out in 2020 it was heavily criticised, but when you understand the brief of this car, its disruptive nature becomes evident. The orange roof and the matching orange interiors in the C3 reflect this Citroen sense of daring and it is working. 

As a designer, what are your views on this constant tussle between engineering and design, especially given today’s focus on safety?

I much prefer working on a production car than on a concept car exactly for those reasons. For me, the real challenge is to put a car on the road with all regulations and our internal standards, which often are more stringent than what the law stipulates. If after all that, the car looks great and is a success in the market, that for me is an achievement. Pedestrian safety was not an issue ten years ago, but today we must work that into the design. Today we are trying to understand how one geometry doesn’t work the same way as another one. We take the product and adapt it to achieve goals for aerodynamics, safety etc. 

Published on July 28, 2022
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