The Citroen Cactus M Concept Launch
I was fortunate enough to be able to go to Frankfurt to cover the release of Citroen’s two new bold and exciting concept cars, the Cactus M and the AirCross.
After a 4am start to fly over to Frankfurt from Birmingham Airport, I jumped into a taxi across the busy business city of Frankfurt to the conference center.
When I first arrived at the show I was overwhelmed with the size of the event and the quality of the stands that were made for the show. I was taken over to Citroen’s stand to meet the team and take a look at their latest and greatest concepts that would be shaping the future of Citroen; the Cactus M and the AirCross. This was the global launch of the Cactus M concept and the European launch of the AirCross concept. I spent some time studying the concepts and really trying to take in the styling, materials and emotions of the cars. During this time I spoke to various other journalist and industry experts about the cars, swapping ideas on what the car meant to us and the industry.
Cactus M Concept
The Citroen Cactus has been shaking up the market for the last year, being based on this model the Cactus M Concept has a highly innovative base to start. The concept is an open top variant designed to enjoy a leisure lifestyle by the beach. The Cactus M has a completely waterproof interior that can be washed down, plastic doors to simulate Airbump, and with the roof removed you can truly bring the outside in and fully immerse yourself in the surroundings. The wild concept even has an inflatable tent that extends from the rear of the car to sleep in or create shelter for when the weather takes a turn.
The Cactus has always been a love it or hate it kind of car, and the Cactus M is no different. For me, I found the concept to be very exciting, a car that is focused around fun and enjoying your surroundings, what could be better than that? I love the use of colours, the new materials used around the windscreen and the personality that the concept presents, sometimes it is good not to take yourself too seriously and the concept is a great representation of that.
Some concepts you wish manufacturers would decide to put into production instantly, the AirCross is one of those cars for me. I was very impressed with the car; there is a clear gap in the market for a 4×4 that is bit more colourful, bold and energetic. The AirCross, has lots going for it. I love the large stylish wheels with sculpted tyres that make the AirCross look like it is ready for any challenge. Take a good look at the interior and you see that Citroen have thoughtfully created a spacious and unique interior design to be both a comfortable and social space.
Launch Time – Citroen Cactus M and AirCross Presentation
The Citroen stand was packed with global media waiting to receive the latest update from Linda Jackson, CEO of Citroen. The presentation started with a creative and well produced video of the Cactus M being shown off in its natural environment, at the beach. Linda took to the stage and briefed the world on the latest happenings with Citroen with regards to the Cactus M concept.
The concept car on stage was covered from sight during the presentation, until Linda revealed the car, with a live band doing a surprise performance next to the car, a few surfer style actors even came out and gave a joyful demonstration on how the car would be used at the beach. They mounted a surfboard on the roof and to everyone’s surprise even deployed a large two man inflatable tent from the boot of the car. The presentation showed a light-hearted and warm element to the car, which in my opinion is a great approach to take with the Cactus M.
Linda followed up by revealing more information about the AirCross concept, which had its global launch at the Shanghai Motor Show earlier in 2015. It was the first time the design had been seen in Europe, and the hybrid concept seemed to be really well received.
The rest of the presentation gave lots of updates to various product ranges that included, colour updates, safety improvements and connectivity advancements in Citroen’s cars.
Linda did a great job of captivating the audience and, from my perspective, really hammered home a few key points about Citroen’s future, they will continue to innovate in all areas of the cars and consider themselves to be a trend setter rather than producing the same old cars like many other manufacturers on the market. Without a doubt, I left the presentation thinking there was a strong future for Citroen with Linda in the driving seat.
Interviewing Current World Touring Car Champion, Jose Maria Lopez
I knew that Citroen’s WTCC team were around for the event, but I had no idea that I would be given some time to chat directly with one of the drivers. I was given the opportunity to talk with the current WTCC winner, Jose Maria Lopez. He walked me around one of Citroen’s WTCC race spec cars, which as you can imagine is one seriously fast car. Jose shared lots of great information about his love for the sport, how he progressed through his racing career and shared some experiences about his driving career, it was fascinating to hear first hand. One of the most interesting things that he mentioned was related to his backing from Citroen, he was impressed with the team’s support of him as a racing driver and said that the innovation and development of the car was a big part of why he was so successful.
Round Table Meeting with Linda Jackson, CEO of Citroen
I was fortunate enough to get 40 minutes with Linda to dig a little deeper on a few future elements of the Citroen brand. The meeting was shared with nine other journalists and was hugely beneficial. I asked Linda how aggressively Citroen planned to keep up to speed and integrate consumer technology into their cars. Straightaway Linda expressed her awareness of how important these developments were to modern cars. She replied saying that they want their customers to feel at home in their cars and that she wants them to bring their technology with them. Linda says that Citroen plan to sit fairly high up on the scale of manufacturers to integrate technology in their cars, but will need to stay 1 step down from the top with regards to pushing innovation in order for the cars to remain affordably priced.
The conversation flowed well for the duration of the meeting and during this time Linda represented great understanding, passion and ambition for the Citroen brand, it was a pleasure to listen to someone so passionate about their brand and confident about creating their own trends and defying normal conventions. I asked Linda where Citroen got the courage to create such bold innovations and break out from the norm, Linda didn’t highlight any one single component to enable Citroen to do this, but once the meeting was over it was clear to me that is was her own personality that was transferring to the brand and the people making it a success.
For me it was an enlightening and informative 40 minutes and it helped me to understand greater meanings to the things I have witnessed in the Citroen cars I have reviewed and how this current progression in the product range has come about.
Deep Dive Into the Design
The day of exclusive meetings continued, the last appointment was 20 minutes with Citroen’s design director Alexandre Malva and Cactus designer Frederic Duvernier. In a small group we were given a deep dive into both the Cactus M and AirCross concepts. After speaking with Alexandre and Frederic for just a few minutes it was clear that they were both design visionaries, clearly doing the job they were born to do.
During the walk around of the cars, I learnt a lot about the finer details of each. Starting with the AirCross concept there are many minor details that are brilliantly innovative about this concept. An example of this is the side cameras that scan the landscape allowing the passengers to click on things of interest using a touch screen inside to get more information on demand. Secondly, the interior design has been developed to be exceptionally spacious, yet each seat encapsulates you with its wrap around design. The seats also have finer details including speakers in each of the headrests delivering the perfect listening experience to each passenger. Lastly we took a closer look at the latest reinvention of Airbump situated in the lower quarter of the split opening doors, it is a look the automotive world has never seen before and really works for the concept.
Next up Frederic took us over to the Cactus M concept. Again, he highlighted lots of finer elements that, being honest, I had completely overlooked when looking at the concept as a whole. These were lots of simple but effective bits of design, such as a single exposed hinge on the outside of the plastic doors that is a nod back to Citroen’s previous Mehari, elegant leather pull handles on the top of the doors to open the doors and an integrated step in the rear quarter panels of the car, to allow rear passengers to jump into the back. These are only soft touches to the car really, put it helps take the car to the next level.
Between the two cars we have seen lots of first-time inventions and I have a strong feeling most of them were very much to do with Alexandre and Frederic. Love or hate the concept designs they are both truly well throughout and well executed.
Frankfurt Event Highlights
Author: Paul Hadley