British boss of Peugeot tells TG all about shonky SD1s and poorly-parked P38As
I wasn’t into cars at all when I was a child, but my uncle was and that’s how I got my first job – he worked at Jaguar. And the only reason I got into cars after that was because I was working for Jaguar and as a teenager I wanted a car for mobility. I wanted to get about and to not rely on my dad being a taxi driver.
At one point my parents had an Austin A40 as a family car, although strangely that’s the only one I remember.
I passed my driving test at 17 and my first car was a kind of gold or beige Mini. It was just an ordinary little British Leyland-built Mini, but it gave me some good adventures. I remember a friend and I drove all the way down to the south of France in it, which is hard work in a Mini let me tell you. No air con, and in fact you had to have the heater on or the engine would boil.
Other memorable cars after that? My husband had a Triumph TR7 which was always good fun. I had a P38A Range Rover when I worked in France but then I quickly realised that a Range Rover wouldn’t fit into many French underground car parks. That wasn’t very helpful.
I was running Rover France at the time and because I’ve always worked for car companies I’ve never really got out of Rovers, Land Rovers, Citroens or Peugeots.
A company car that I really liked though was the Citroen C6. I loved a C6. I had one while I was in charge of Citroen in the UK and Ireland. It was a beautiful car. So comfortable and it had a massive wheelbase.
I loved the design of the old Rover SD1 too. I had one of those. They were very reliable at the beginning of production. I remember in the winter I came into the office and put the windows down in the car park, but then couldn’t get them back up again no matter what I tried. I ended up having to drive all the way from London to Coventry with the windows down. The weather was Arctic.
I know it sounds a bit stupid but I also loved the C5 Aircross. When we developed with Xavier Peugeot that was the one we developed all the way through and that was the one that we really felt was the epitome of where we wanted to take Citroen. I’m sure the brand may go in other directions in the future, but that was the last car that I launched. It’s like your baby. We wanted to differentiate it from Peugeot and Opel/Vauxhall’s offerings. We’d already started but the C5 Aircross led us further down the path of maximum comfort.
I now drive a 355bhp Peugeot 508 PSE estate, which is a great car. Personally I love the shape of the estate, or the SW in Peugeot speak. And I’ve got a 3008. Not a 308 yet though – that’s next.
I must admit I really enjoy driving electric cars too. I had a conversation recently where someone was trying to say that EVs take away the love of driving. They don’t. I love the silence.