France changes Cabinets, constitutions and women's fashions faster than any major country in the world. But one French institution has remained almost as steadfast as the Eiffel Tower: the nation's favorite automobile. For 21 years, the Citroën has been the same familiar model, a low design well ahead of its time, with independent wheel suspension and front-wheel drive. Until 1951 it came in only one color—black; then it reluctantly added grey, grey-black and blue-black. Nevertheless, since 1934 Frenchmen have bought more than 1,000,000 Citroëns.

Last week, as Citroën displayed a radically new...

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