Vincent Cobee, the CEO of Citroen, says a series of crises that have rocked the automotive industry in recent years represent an opportunity for the 100-year-old French brand "to be extremely relevant again." With the Ami electric quadricycle and the new Oli concept, Citroen is seeking to offer a pathway to affordable, responsible and fun electric mobility. Cobee, who held international executive positions with the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi alliance before joining Citroen, spoke with Automotive News Europe News Editor Peter Sigal about the role he thinks the Stellantis brand can play in the future.
What was the thinking behind the Oli?
At Citroen, we want to be accessible, we want to support well-being, and we want to be audacious. When you do a concept, you are not only trying to make a statement, or place a flag, but you also want to show a way to get to the flag. We are in a place where freedom of mobility is important -- COVID was proof of that -- where economic tensions will increase and where the energy transition is a reality. We have only one planet and resources are constrained. So, we put that on the table and said, "Let's not solve every problem." With Oli, we are not intending to make an emphatic statement on aerodynamics or on future body types. We want to make a statement on affordable, responsible electric cars that exude freedom.
Why did you choose a utilitarian design rather than a sports car or a sleek pod?
Life is not made of gray pods that are moving anonymously in the city. And Citroen is not a sports car brand. (Citroen designer) Pierre Leclercq and I share one thing, which is the relationship between form and function. I'm a civil engineer by training, so to me form defines function and function defines form. We wanted the Oli to say "recycleable, affordable, attractive and efficient." So, that leads to form equals function. For example, the vertical windshield glass makes a statement: Great visibility, less material, less weight, very easy to manufacture. If it comes out in a polarizing way, that's fine.