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Letter from Paris 2: Selling cars in style

This is not just about flogging the latest mainstream models. It is about celebrating the history of the marques, revelling in the glory of recent motor racing victories, and providing tantalising glimpses into the future with the latest concept cars.

Fiat’s Motor Village is a particularly fine example, celebrating la dolce vita and all things Italian. It even has an upmarket Italian restaurant on the top floor and a smart cafe at pavement level. In between it is currently running an exhibition focusing on the history of the Fiat 500 with the latest models sitting alongside even more cute originals from the 1950s and 1960s.

Citroën’s showcase is a dramatic multi-tiered tower featuring its latest models alongside futuristic concept cars, championship winning rally cars and classics such as a beautiful DS. Just down the street, sister company Peugeot has a more modest single-level space but manages to pack in a vintage streamlined test vehicle plus a modern day Le Mans racer, alongside current models that do look a bit drab in comparison.

The latter criticism could be levelled at all of the showcases, but the car manufacturers clearly hope that their heritage, history and on-track victories will inspire today’s buyers. Their Champs-Élysées showrooms acknowledge the fact that many automotive purchases are often ruled by the heart, rather than the head, something that is forgotten by your average car dealership.

This is the second in a series of short postings prompted by a recent flying visit to Paris.

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