Citroën CEO Linda Jackson: “Women make better cars”
Linda Jackson, CEO of Citroën is very clear on this: “If you have more women at the top of a manufacturer, you will get better cars.” An interview.
There are not many women at the head of car manufacturers: in Europe there are only two, Linda Jackson at Citroën and Annette Winkler at Smart. In the States there is of course Mary Barra, who is heading the whole GM Group.
“I’m very disappointed about this. When I started at Citroën in 2005, it was simply not imaginable that a woman would lead the company, fortunately that has changed. But that I’m almost the only one is a scandal. Half of our clients are women!”
“The car industry is seen as a macho world where you have to be an engineer to succeed. This stress on a technical background withholds women to step in. I’m not a technician, I have a financial background.”
Do women think differently about cars? “Yesterday I was in our styling department to look at new cars. Well, men gather around the engine and talk about performance and safety features. I want to feel good in a car and have ample space for my belongings. That may sound very cliché, but it’s also real.”
So we’re still talking too much about horsepower and roadholding in the car business? “That’s absolutely true. I find it normal that a car has a nice engine, but I don’t want super performance. It doesn’t fit with the profile of our clients.”
“Too many journalists still focus on the engine’s performance, many customers are not interested any more. In a self-driving car in the future comfort, safety and connectivity will be the key features.”
The Citroën customer
What’s important for the Citroën customer? “Lately we are focused primarily on design and comfort. Customer research indicates that this is what our clients are looking for, all over the world. I recently visited Iran and the same criteria were at the top of the wish list.”
There has been a time that Citroën’s design was not so good, but this has changed lately. We know it’s important, people want to feel different and design helps to do that. A Citroën doesn’t have to be simply nice, it has to be wildly attractive. That also means we won’t please everybody.”
“The other most important aspect is comfort. The name Citroën has always been associated with comfort, thanks to our pneumatic suspension. But it was expensive and we developed a new, more affordable system to have it on all our models.”
“We pay attention to the seats too and all other things that make you feel really at home. That’s also the message of our recent stands at car shows. Feel at home.”
Citroën has been a diesel brand for a long time. Isn’t that changing? “It’s clear that demand for diesels is declining. Take France for example: a few years ago we sold 70% diesels, now the demand has already gone down to 50%. Because petrol engines are cleaner and consume less than a while ago.”
“But as long as there are people who want a diesel, we will build them. At this moment nobody knows when demand will stop. The current fall in demand is also driven by media and politics. The Parisian authorities for example hate diesel. While the newest generation of diesel engines is extremely clean.”