ART BLAKESLEE, 64, is head of styling and design at Citroen. Born in the USA, he spent 20 years at Chrysler before moving to Citroen in the late 1970s. He was responsible for the design of Picasso, the Xsara-based compact minivan, and the futuristic C3 concept that debut at the Paris auto show. Georg Auer talked to him about Citroen's individual style.
Citroen has been accused of sacrificing its distinctive image with the design of its smaller cars - particularly the Saxo. What is your response to such comments?
Considering we had to share parts with the Peugeot 106, we think we did an absolutely brilliant job with the Saxo.
But there is now a greater emphasis on design and styling at Citroen. The C3 really shows how we see Citroen's future direction.
How would you define the C3?
I would like it to become an essential car - like the 2CV was an essential car. But that is something for the next century.
We have to produce a car that people will still talk about in 50 years' time. If we can manage that, we really will have achieved something.
What are the essential qualities of a Citroen?
Well, if you view cars from the front or side, they often look similar. But the rear view has to grab your attention.
The front of the C3 is rather simple, but the rear view really makes you clap your hands. That is what really takes your breath away.
Then, of course, there is the center profile. That really sums up a car's identity. That is how you recognize it.
In the past, Peugeot has been mainly influenced by Pininfarina, and Citroen by Bertone. Will this approach be maintained?
No, we are open to all outside designers, and our in-house styling department competes openly with them. During the last four years we always have won.
Actually, I think the chief designers of the big companies may have a better view of future styling trends than the Turin houses. We often speak to each other. We are all friends.