The French, for all they have contributed to Western civilization, remain an enigma for a variety of reasons, not limited to their public toilets, their habit of greeting each other with kisses on both cheeks and their penchant for driving like maniacs.
Among things that have set the French apart from the rest of Western Europe is their approach to building cars. As my dad has said more than once, the French design cars as though they’d never seen one before.
He was speaking specifically of Citroën, which has been manufacturing vehicles for nearly a century.
While living in California in the early 1980s, I spied the occasional late ‘60s and early ‘70s Citroën DS about, which, in an area that not only had its share of modern sports cars but also a sizeable number of classic American cars, stood out like a great Gallic mutation. (One supposes they were driven by aging hippies who had tired of their Volkswagen vans and wanted to move on something more pretentious.)
In the intervening years it appears the company began to pay attention to other more stylish automakers and actually managed to churn out a variety of decent-looking cars.
However, in a nod to its perplexing past, Citroën will soon release the E-Mehari, an open-top electric runabout that reinforces the company’s willingness to throw caution, and taste, to the winds.
While the BBC’s car reviewer gushes over the new model, the E-Mehari is balky, ugly and looks to be something more akin to what a group of children, given access to plastic molding equipment, would fashion given the opportunity.
It has a top speed of 68 miles per hour and a cruising range of 125 miles.
It’s obvious that the PR folks at Citroën had their work cut out for them in trying to make chicken salad out this mess of chicken feathers.
“The E-MEHARI is a bold, vibrant vehicle, very much in tune with the CITROËN spirit,” according to a company press release. “The E-MEHARI is an ‘it car,’ designed to appeal to customers looking for an alternative vehicle with a positive outlook on life, attentive to trends and to the environment. Incomparable, silent and stress-free, the E-MEHARI stands apart as a free spirit in the automotive market!”
One supposes that those of us with a less-than-positive outlook on life will be turned away at the dealership. Will that be a question on the application, along with “Are you attentive to trends?” and “Are you attentive to the environment?” If you can’t tick off all three you may not be eligible for an E-Mehari.
Also included in the Citroën press release: “Stylish, confident, offbeat, and even sassy….. we could use so many words to describe the new model by CITROËN.”
I, too, could “use so many words,” but probably none that Citroën would care to include in its promotional materials.
Also, “sassy” isn’t a compliment, whether it’s being used to describe a person or an inanimate object. Of course, an inanimate object can be neither sassy nor confident.
To call the E-Mehari “stylish” is about as far as one can stretch the truth and not be held liable for deceptive advertising.
And while one might agree that the E-Mehari is “offbeat,” this may not be any more flattering than calling the local cat lady “offbeat.”
Given its size, limited range and inability to get up to anywhere near the speed most French drivers like drive on the open road, one supposes about all this little monstrosity will be good for is traveling down to the boulangerie to pick up a couple of baguettes, if they can be squeezed in.
Welcome back, Citroën.
(Top: Citroën E-Mehari, to be released in France this coming spring.)