Linda Jackson is the first woman - and the first Brit - to be appointed boss of a French motor firm.
Linda Jackson is the first woman - and the first Brit - to be appointed boss of a French motor firm.

Car salesmen still talk down to me - Citroen boss

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Sep 15, 2017

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Frankfurt Motor Show - As one of the most powerful woman in the motor industry, Citroen boss Linda Jackson knows a thing or two about cars, but but despite her expertise, she still gets patronised by male forecourt salesmen when she goes to car showrooms.

Jackson, who became chief executive of the French car giant three years ago, says she has been the victim of sexism in showrooms, with sales staff even ignoring her in favour of a male companion.

She regularly goes on mystery shopping exercises to garages to see how rivals are selling cars. She has visited showrooms in a number of different countries, with most located in the UK and France.

"You do learn a lot about how the customer is treated," she said. "Sometimes you go into a showroom with your husband and they just turn to your male partner and say, 'how would you like to spend your money?' This is what we need to change. We want to make it easier for anybody to buy a car.

"When women go into a dealership, they want to touch feel and drive the car. They don’t want hard pressure," she added. "It’s not about being a woman. It’s about how I would want to be treated as a woman."

Jackson made waves in the car industry when she became the first woman - and the first Brit - to be appointed chief executive of a French motor company. Originally from Coventry, she joined the car industry almost by accident when she took a holiday job stapling invoices at Rover as a teenager.

She fell in love with cars and turned down a place to study teaching at Sussex University to stay on as an accounting clerk at the firm. Within a decade she was named finance director of Rover in France in 1998, and began climbing through the ranks of the French motor industry.

She has been credited with creating a ‘French Revolution’ at Citroen by bringing her ‘Anglo-Saxon’ approach to the company. Having a Briton at the helm initially caused a stir - she despaired at the time-keeping of her French colleagues, while they were mystified by her tea-drinking. But Jackson, who lives in Paris, says both sides have now adapted, joking: "Now when I go to our dealers they get the tea out."

She met her husband David while working at Rover, and he went on to and he become her unofficial research assistant. However he died from cancer in 2014, just months after she became head of Citroen.

"He still inspires me to go on," Jackson said. "When I have little successes I say, 'thank you'.

"You either go on or you stay strong and survive. I had to rebuild my life. It’s a lonely time - but it’s lonely at the top anyway."

Earlier in 2017 Jackson was named the ‘most influential Briton in the global car industry’, topping an annual poll of 50 leading UK car executives operating at home and abroad in the Auto Express ‘Brit List’. It was the first time a female executive has taken the top spot.

However, she has previously told of her constant battle against sexism in the traditionally male-dominated industry. She has admitted that a woman having her job would have been impossible to think of a decade ago.

"When I told people I was in the car industry they used to think I was a mechanic," she said. "But being a woman, providing you do a great job everybody remembers you, though it’s not very politically correct to say it, I’m afraid."

Daily Mail

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