Citroën’s Chief Executive speaks with LSST’s Marketing and Admissions Director about achievement and leadership

Interview date: 20 February 2018
Photo Source: Citroën, used with permission

Since 1919, the Citroën brand has systematically shown style, comfort and value and an unfailing human attachment. Jackson has successfully re‐established Citroën’s reputation for being unconventional, audacious and impertinent. Her vision and leadership has improved profit margins for the group globally.

On the strength of its almost 100 years’ old heritage and with more than 300 models, many having marked the automotive industry, LSST’s Marketing and Admissions director, Mr Ali Jafar Zaidi, speaks with Citroën’s chief executive, Linda Jackson, about the company’s epic history and where it is next heading.

1. You have been the CEO of Citroën since 2014, what are your main achievements?

I was appointed as head of the Citroën Brand on 1st June 2014. This was also the day of my opposite number Yves Bonnefont’s appointment at DS, as it was officially on that day that DS split from Citroën by becoming an entirely separate brand; the PSA Group’s premium brand.

My appointment therefore coincided immediately with a challenge for Citroën: that of reinventing itself alone, without DS, who had made most of Citroën’s headlines over the previous few years, sometimes even overshadowing the rest of the range. For us, this challenge was a great opportunity: that of transforming Citroën by focusing on our core activity as a mainstream brand, around a clear and strong new positioning, adding value for our customers.

To do this, we looked at what had always made our legacy and our DNA, from the Traction to the Berlingo or the Picasso MPVs, right through to the 2CV. This is what has led us today to position Citroën as a ‘popular’ brand in the true sense of the word: a brand inspired by people and their lifestyle. In other words: a ‘People Minded Brand’. This is exactly what is expressed by our new Brand signature: ‘Inspired by You’.

For almost 4 years, we have therefore been working on this comprehensive transformation of the Brand. We have defined a strong and very consistent product plan, bearing our values of design and comfort, which you have already been able to see the first expressions of with our New C3 and also our C3 Aircross compact SUV. But beyond the products themselves, it is a 360° transformation that we are undertaking: in our services, with new mobility services like ‘Citroën Rent&Smile’, in our commercial network with the new city store concept ‘La Maison Citroën’ which we are deploying in the world, but also in the whole experience provided to our customers, such as the ‘Citroën Advisor’ online review website.

Believe me, for almost 4 years, this 360° transformation has been my daily work and that of my teams. It is an enormous amount of work, but being able to write a new chapter in the history of a great Brand like Citroën is truly thrilling!

2. When you first came in to your role, with over 35 yeas’ experience in the car industry, you promised more innovative, well-equipped and comfortable cars. Have you been able to de-liver on this?

Backed by our ‘People minded brand’ positioning, at Citroën we want to make the difference through the design and comfort of our cars. For us, they are two essential features of a ‘People minded car’, and ones which are fully consistent with our history.

In this way, Citroën’s design must be unique and recognisable at first glance. In terms of comfort, backed by our expertise in this area, we have developed a comprehensive pro-gramme called ‘Citroën Advanced Comfort’ which guides the design of all of our new models (suspension, on-board space, storage, brightness, etc.). It is within the framework of this programme that we have developed our new ‘Progressive Hydraulic Cushions’ suspensions technology. This new tech-nology, for which 20 patents have been issued, provides a ‘flying carpet’ effect and is being premiered in Europe by the New C4 Cactus which we are preparing to launch.

3. We totally dismiss that your CEO appointment has anything at all to do with gender but ra-ther on your track record. Would you agree?

As you have said yourself: I was named as CEO of Citroën after over 35 years of a career spent in the automotive sector. I would hope that this is a sufficiently important indicator for you to conclude that it is above all my experience and my skills which allowed me to take up this position! For that matter, would have you asked this question of a man? (laughs)

4. We had the pleasure of meeting you when we attended the CNN Inspirations debate on the future of car technology, would you describe what cars are supposed to look like in 10 years?

It is a difficult question to look 10 years ahead in a specific way, at a time when everything is devel-oping so quickly, particularly new technologies. However, I believe that I am correct in saying that the motor vehicle of the future will be connected, just as well with its occupants as with its surroundings, and it will undoubtedly be able to be driven in a 100% autonomous way.

5. What method do you use to lead?

I have a collaborative management vision and I do my best to be pragmatic in my decision-making. To do so, I attach great importance to listening to my teams before making decisions, because it is them who have the expertise in their own areas. I do not get caught up in my assumptions, which could lead me to make bad decisions.

6. With so many vehicles under your management, which one/s do you use?

My company car is changed regularly, which allows me to fully appreciate the various models in our range. At the moment, I am driving a Citroën C4 Picasso. Before that, I had a C4 Cactus.

7. What advice would you give to our students?

My advice for a successful career in the modern world is to be agile, whilst demonstrating persever-ance, because hard work always pays off. On a personal level, you also of course need to have self-confidence and know how to seize opportunities when they present themselves, because nothing is impossible.

I will let you in on a secret: personally just 10 years ago, I would never have bet that the CEO of a brand like Citroën might not be French, because the PSA Group was still a very traditional company. So in addition, that it would be a woman, that was completely unimaginable! And yet here I am to-day!

Visit the Citroën website:

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For more information about the PSA visit:

Please email the author of this article for any questions or comments. LSST students are heavily encouraged to email Kunal should they wish to help with interviewing senior business leaders in the future.

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