Citroën SM - Demise

Demise

After the 1974 bankruptcy of Citroën, Peugeot took ownership of the company and in May 1975, divested Maserati. Peugeot decided to stop building the SM, as sales were minimal in that year.

Observers often attribute the demise of the SM to the 1973 oil crisis and economic recession. While the oil shock certainly affected sales, it is useful to note that many far more profligate cars were introduced at the same time the SM ceased production. Peugeot even introduced a V6 powered car of similar displacement and fuel consumption in 1975, the 604. In the U.S. (the main export market for the SM), the SM was actually an economical vehicle relative to its competitors. However, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) imposed new automotive design regulations in 1974, effectively banning the Citroën from the U.S. market.

As illustrated under production numbers, SM sales declined starting in 1972. This appears to be attributable to maintenance issues. The early ignition breaker cassettes are very unreliable, and the timing chains cause catastrophic engine failure if not adjusted at 60,000 km, faults that were corrected long after production ceased. The 90° engine timing was unfamiliar to mechanics in 1970s. Only the Buick 90 degree V6 (1962–66; 1975-), Jeep (1966–71), was an American V6 with 90° between banks.

Most vehicles require only generalist maintenance, where any competent mechanic can properly maintain the vehicle. Certain vehicles — like Citroëns and Ferraris — require specialist care due to their unique design. While a sturdy car if maintained rigorously, the SM did require two sets of specialist care — Citroën specialists, which are widespread in Europe, and a rarer Maserati specialist, to keep the engine in tune. Once potential buyers began to realize this, sales dropped precipitously.

Components of the SM lived on — in the Maserati Merak (engine, transmission) and the Lotus Esprit (transmission (both mirror image)). Nissan made a small three-door hatchback in the late 1970s which used many SM styling cues, including the tailgate. The successful Citroën CX carried forward most of the SM's dynamic qualities, including the trendsetting speed sensitive power steering.

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