My Love Affair with French Cars
There’s three things I love about France — their cooking, their wine, and their cars. Well, maybe four things, but I don’t want to get into trouble.
Such fine memories. In fact, I owned a Peugeot when I lived in Europe. Day to day, that was funnest car I’ve ever driven. Later, when I returned to the U.S., I went on to purchase two more Peugeots, including the last model that was ever imported into the United States. Now, French cars have become quite a rarity on American shores. This makes me sad.
About 20 years ago, Peugeot stopped exporting cars into the U.S. Truth is, Peugeots never sold very well here. Some of this lack of enthusiasm came from our cultural bias against the French. Peugeot and other brands including Renault also didn’t help their cause any with shoddy craftsmanship. They developed a terrible reputation that become impossible to shed from the early imports being problematic cars. The cars got a lot better over the years, but as they say, one never gets a second chance to make a positive first impression. The hint of a lemon smell stuck forever.
At the time, the American luxury car market was dominated by the Germans. Now, Lexus and other popular brands have caught up and surpassed the Europeans, becoming the new automotive gold standard. Meanwhile, few Americans have ever driven or even seen a French car, since most of the remaining models are now quite old, or have been restored as classics.
If Peugeot was my first love — then my tempting mistress has always been Citroen.
I’ve always wanted to own a Citroen. But that wasn’t a widely held view. The older Citroens looked funny. Many people thought they were ugly. At least let’s agree on this — they were certainly different.
This week, I’m in Eindhoven, Holland.
That’s located in the southern part of the country. It’s about 20 miles from Belgium and 30 miles away from Germany. It’s an ideal spot for visiting many parts of Western Europe. For instance, Amsterdam is about two hours to the north. Dusseldorf is two hours east. Antwerp is slightly more than an hour away. Brussels is perhaps a two and a half hour drive. France is less than three hours away, and I’ve driven from here to Paris and back in a single day.
Getting around is easy. And apparently, my brother-in-law shared my deep love for French cars. He owned a 2012 Citroen C3.
Incredibly, sadly, Citroens have never been imported into the U.S. They are very rare cars indeed on American soil, the very few that exist having been converted to meet strict Depertment of Transportation standards. Of course, French-built Citroens are every bit as safe as American-built cars, if not more so (you know, Socialist laws). But the big U.S. auto makers don’t want competition from abroad, so they lobbied our government to create absurd trade barriers which shut out these makes of cars from the American market.
So much for the champions of “free trade.” So much for the free market.
Too bad the French and other countries don’t put up the same trade barriers against American cars. But this will never happen. Since the U.S. has transfered most of their assembly lines (costing American jobs) to many European countries, they now enjoy competing on the same playing field as their European Union counterparts. But Citroen and many other car makers can’t sell their cars in the U.S. Doesn’t quite seem fair.
Here’s the speedy Citroen C3, which zips around at about 40 miles to the gallon. This is one of the smallest and most economical of the popular Citroen line. Citroen also makes luxury cars, vans, and even trucks.
But you’ll probably never see this car driven in the United States, thanks to the big American automakers. So, I’ll have to enjoy driving this while I’m here in Europe and go back with fond memories.