Citroën Hijacks German Stereotypes to Sell its New C5
By Andy Bannister
Big French cars typically don’t sell well outside Francophone countries so Citroen is looking east of the Rhine for help in selling its newest model, the C5.
A sumptuous movie and TV commercial now airing in the UK hammers home the message that Citroën’s latest saloon is at least as good as good as its German competitors. It does so by featuring the new C5 in a series of cliché Teutonic settings to the sound of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries.
Citroën is deadly serious about wanting to change the way its cars are perceived, and is using humour to get across this message. The commercial features every ludicrously stereotypical German scene imaginable, from a swashbuckling duel outside a snowy gothic castle to a traditional Bavarian hofbräuhaus.
At the end of an autobahn trip the 60-second film climaxes with the car’s enraptured blond-haired male driver alighting at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to the slogan: “Unmistakably German. Made in France”, voiced over in a German accent.
Perhaps it says something about how secure modern Europeans feel about leaving recent history behind that such nationalistic German images can be used in a tongue-in-cheek way to sell a French car.
The C5 itself looks solid and impressive in a way its predecessor of the same name never was. The old C5 had peculiarly bland styling which made it look ungainly from almost every angle. Inside it was roomy but not particularly well screwed together, and suffered badly from that bane which seems to haunt larger French cars – steep depreciation.
The new car seems a far more attractive, even sporty, proposition, with a distinctive glasshouse. Diesel engines are king in Europe, and the C5 has no less than four units to choose from, the largest being a 201bhp 3.0-litre V6.
Its chief homegrown competitors are the Renault Laguna and Peugeot 407, with other Euro rivals including the Ford Mondeo, VW Passat and Opel Vectra. Citroën also wants to steal back some sales from the premium automakers who have gobbled up market share in recent years, so are hoping to tempt a few BMW, Audi and Mercedes buyers back into a French car, pitching a quality product with plenty of equipment at a competitive price.
Will it succeed? It is certainly an attention-grabbing idea and a world away from the dull commercials many manufacturers rely on. How many buyers sign on the dotted line and drive off in a new C5, though, remains to be seen.
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