Judging the maturity of the Citroën C6 Lignage concept car at the last Geneva Motor Show, one could have thought it was the fruit of a long and well-researched design process. But it had only taken five months to materialise from the first idea. The initiative had been taken by PSA’s and Citroën’s management who were worried about press reports suggesting that Citroën might pull out of the large car market.
Behind the scenes, Citroën had already started a large-car programme but it would be some years before any hardware could be shown to the public. So Claude Satinet, managing director of Automobiles Citroën, and Jean-Marie Folz, CEO of PSA asked Art Blakeslee, the head of the ‘Centre de Creation’ of Citroën, if he could do a concept car for the 1999 Geneva Show, to make it clear to press and public that Citroën fully intended to stay in the high end of the market.
But that was October 1998, so Blakeslee had only five months to design and build such a car. However, he immediately replied to the management, saying that “if you want it, you get it”. Only a few minutes later, when Satinet and Folz left the meeting room, they gave the green light with the simple words: “Then do it!”
Blakeslee explained that the C6 project had two faces, and one of them for sure was about the production of a functional concept car in record time. But it could also be proof of PSA and Citroën management’s future commitment as well”. I have been waiting for such an opportunity for seven years,” says Blakeslee, who has managed Citroën’s design efforts for a decade. “And this opportunity has given us new insight into the design team’s capabilities as well”.
In particular, the fact that the management left Blakeslee and his team every freedom to work without interference was essential. “Only on January 10th, during a presentation of the car in Nice, would we decide to show the car in Geneva, or not”. Immediately after the ‘green light’ meeting in October, Blakeslee adressed his team and said: “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a unique project, but only one week to show our management what we want”.
Everybody went crazy, throwing their routine chores aside and working day and night, both in the office and at home, to do initial sketches and make ten 1/5 scale models, in just a week’s time. Blakeslee made a short-list from those ten because he wanted to confront the management – including PSA product development man Peugeot and Citroën’s marketing chief Vincent Besson – with only three scale models to choose from. They soon fell for young Marc Pinson’s proposal, as well as the interior suggestion sketches of Russian-born Vladimir Pirojkov.
The article continues in Auto & Design no. 116