When Fiat Chrysler Automobiles chieftain Sergio Marchionne was still alive, there was boundless speculation that he wanted to make a really, really big partnership with another global automotive giant as part of the industry-wide trend toward such mega-partnerships as the definition of personal transportation continues its onrushing evolution. It’s not grossly wrong to guess that he was a potential suitor of Groupe PSA in France, which produces Peugeot, Citroen, Vauxhall and Opel, the latter two being onetime General Motors nameplates. Last week’s announcement that FCA and PSA have effectively agreed to merge into a new global entity, which would make it the world’s fourth-largest automaker, leaves us with a firm that produces everything from Ram trucks to Ferraris. The announced rationale behind the agreement was a streamlining of research into autonomous vehicles, while leveraging FCA’s marketing strength in the Americas with PSA’s similar achievements in Europe.
For our reaction to all this, we present the above PSA image of one of its most famous heritage vehicles. If you don’t recognize it, the car is a Citroen DS 21 from the 1970s, a fabled French luxury limousine with some hugely innovative engineering, including a complex hydraulic system that operated the brakes, steering and height-adjustable suspension. In this country, it’s likely best known as the vehicle carrying Charles de Gaulle that was machine-gunned by terrorists in Fred Zinnemann’s terrific 1973 film, The Day of the Jackal. I posted it to underscore the fact that Peugeot and Citroen both produce some profoundly neat vehicles, which I got to check out during several weeks in France last year, that have never made it our shores. These include some rally-bred hot hatches that would give even the most tricked-out, barrel-chested Subaru WRX STI a run for its money. The deal will almost certainly result in some accelerated platform sharing between FCA and PSA; it’d be way cool to see some of the French home-market cars eventually make their way here for the first time in decades. Another factor here is that the lash-up includes Jeep, a perennial profit powerhouse, which figured heavily into the last French overture that involved Chrysler, however indirectly: When the late Lee Iacocca led Chrysler to buy out Renault’s share of the erstwhile American Motors in 1987, acquiring the Jeep juggernaut drove the deal. The remaining Renault-based cars, such as the unfortunate little Alliance, were summarily dumped. I do think FCA’s move will have more of a Francophone ring to it over forthcoming years.