For Xavier Peugeot, brand Citroen is essentially about coherence

Murali Gopalan | Updated on: May 30, 2019

What’s in a name? Xavier Peugeot, Director of Product Planning, Citroen

The Director of Product Planning is excited about the India challenge

Xavier Peugeot smiles good-naturedly when I prod him on his family name.

“Yes, I can understand your question on the Peugeot name but I am a PSA employee by the end of the day. Like everyone else, I need to follow the rules and I do,” he says matter-of-factly.

Point taken and the message coming through is loud and clear. Xavier Peugeot could be part of France’s celebrated family but is no different from his colleagues at Groupe PSA. Nearly two decades of his 25-year tenure were spent in different roles at Peugeot before he moved to Citroen as Director of Product Planning in 2014.

“It has been very exciting and when I started this new role, my top priority was to have the best possible understanding of the Citroen brand, its values, DNA, etc. You cannot build a successful product story if you are not connected to the roots,” says Peugeot.

From his point of view, it is a “tremendous opportunity” to be associated with a legacy brand like Citroen simply because “having such roots is a tremendous base to build the future”. Peugeot also believes that if there is one word that should epitomise the Citroen brand, it is coherence.

“You can always make good cars but if you create a car which is not in line with its brand values or create one which is single and disconnected from the rest of the range, your customers will tell you that there is something wrong and something that they do not understand,” explains Peugeot.

Hence, he continues, coherence is key and it becomes more and more visible with every launch of Citroen. Simply put, it is akin to a DNA commonality across the range, which becomes evident to its end-user.

As Peugeot explains, a customer constantly receives various signals from a brand on product quality, design, service, colour codes, etc. If there is one signal which is not right, be it service, quality, etc, then “there is something in your mind as a customer which gives you a lower and more fragile perception of the brand”.

It is here that Peugeot reiterates that strong brands are connected to coherence and Citroen is on the right path towards achieving this goal optimally. In his words, it is a 360-degree approach, which is the best way to “have striking coherence” and attractive brands for the customer.

Key assets

According to Peugeot, there are are two key assets that Citroen brings to the table. One, it has built its legendary reputation on boldness: its capacity to challenge the norm, break the rules, and to be everything but classical. “The challenge for us is not just to create quirky cars but to make sure that you can have this level of boldness that can be expanded throughout the world,” he elaborates.

In a sense, this means a “limited number of silhouettes but the capacity to bring the same level of modernity of coherence” across the globe. In the process, that becomes “our challenge in getting the balance right between having the same product in various regions of the world and at the same time deliver boldness in a way” that will be equally attractive to a customer in India, Brazil, China or Europe. The other asset of Citroen that it has delivered effortlessly over the decades is comfort and the challenge now is to deliver this trait in a modern way. Once again, says Peugeot, this will involve a 360-degree approach where the focus should go beyond suspension and seats to other aspects like ease of view, storage, connectivity, etc. This new approach, called Advanced Comfort, is the best way to “deliver in line” with Citroen’s modern message of comfort.

When will customers in India begin getting used to these values that Citroen will bring to them beginning 2020 and then make the brand connect? Peugeot agrees that it takes time to explain the values and key messages of a brand like Citroen.

Yet, he and his team are super excited and enthusiastic about starting this “new life in India and bringing Citroen” to this ultra competitive market. “We want to be successful in India where Citroen’s values can be connected to the customer’s needs. We will implement in a clear, simple and coherent way the recipe which will hopefully work,” he says.

The key, he says, is to remain humble because India is a big market which will continue to grow in the coming years. It will also comprise large numbers of young people “more than anywhere else in the world”. Peugeot says it is important to remain connected to this young generation’s expectations and views.

“These young buyers want a smart, and not simplistic, approach which is in line with Citroen’s values. They want ease of use, connectivity and a modern way of comfort,” he says. Knowing fully well what they expect, Citroen is preparing its new products in line with these parameters.

“We will initialise a new programme in India and expand it to other markets,” says Peugeot. He is quite confident that a recipe created in the subcontinent can be replicated successfully elsewhere given that customer requirements are the same world over in terms of connectivity, modern features and so on.

After all, he reasons, youngsters are initialising the trends and everybody else wants to follow and stay young in terms of freshness, mindset, behaviour, etc. “Having young Indians create the base for us is a tremendous opportunity and it will be doubtless successful in other countries,” says a confident Peugeot.

Brand flexibility

He is equally aware that GenNext is quick to switch easily from one brand to another as well as from one movie to another thanks to the “tremendous flexibility of smartphones”. This is where Citroen needs to keep in mind that these youngsters have a different relationship with cars and this attitude, in turn, will “generate new rules in mobility” especially across big cities.

“This will also have an influence on the relationship with customers and cars and we have to think out-of-the box with concepts which are in line with these trends,” says Peugeot. Clearly, this means offering different mobility solutions which can help people move quickly from Point A to B, especially in crowded cities.

The new generation will also ask more of a car in terms of ease of use and sharing with others, etc. “The concept of cars will constantly change,” continues Peugeot.

He is confident that Citroen, with its creative approach , will comfortably rise to the challenge.

The writer was recently in Paris at the invitation of Citroen

Published on May 30, 2019
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