Car. The Citroën XM, the top of the French range… was not reliable
At Citroën, all large sedans since Traction have become absolute references. In 1955, the DS, which would revolutionize the car and then the CX, would further push the limits of comfort, handling and allow the French premium to exist against foreign references.
But in the early 1980s, the situation was difficult for PSA. The CX began to age, but by mid-decade the group had confirmed a new top-of-the-line sedan.
An ambitious program
PSA group president Jacques Calvet will approve an ambitious program for France’s highest peak. Citroën will have the XM replacing the CX, while Peugeot will have the 605. But for now, this project is called “Y30” in the corridors of Citroen’s design office.
A dual program that will create competition between the two sister brands. Soon, the two teams responsible for developing each model had only one goal: to release their car before the other.
A race bolstered by the group’s overall lineup, with Renault confident of unveiling a replacement for the Renault 25 in the coming months. Finally, Safrane would not arrive until 1992.
Citroën pulls first
On May 23, 1989, Citroën XM was introduced. He has just won his first bet, he arrived three months before the Peugeot 605. To get there, the launch of the sedan was brought forward a year.
At first, everything went well, the car was even chosen as the car of the year 1990. The public and press applauded its original design by coachbuilder Bertone. The style is in the tradition of the brand, its very neat aerodynamics give it 0.28 CX!
It even allows the luxury of adding two spheres to its hydropneumatic suspension and electronic control, offering two damping modes, soft and sport.
Unlike the CX, which is only equipped with a 4-cylinder, the XM is offered with a V6 engine. It shares the V6 PRV with its cousin, with a 24-valve version offering 200bhp indeed.
The prestigious car offered for the first time a double rear window, the so-called window 13, which allowed passengers to be protected from the outside weather. The release of XM is a real event on the network. But difficulties begin during the first press tests.
Although specialized journalists have the first copies after attending the press conference, it is a drama. Some testers will indeed fail after only a few kilometers.
The manufacturer justifies itself by talking about “pre-series models”, but the evil is deeper. Early adopters will quickly realize XM’s profound shortcomings.
Various leaks, power steering cylinders, bad contacts in the electrical circuit, blown fuses, overheating of the engine, hydraulic suspension, problems with the ABS system or the start, nothing will be protected from them. The network is overloaded, customer service is apologetic, and the manufacturer is overwhelmed.
A painful failure
Soon, XM’s reputation was established. After traveling for several months, the manufacturer brings a number of technical corrections. Over the months, XM gains credibility.
Despite a major restyling, estate version and obvious qualities of behavior or comfort, damage is done.
With only 333,405 produced over 11 years, the XM will never be able to compete with the CX, which sold 1,169,695 units. But even if the manufacturer thinks it’s hit rock bottom, the C6 will do even worse, with just 23,300 sold. French high-end is definitely dead.