Tribute to the Stellantis design studio at La Ferté-Vidame

The curtain will fall at the end of 2024 on the Stellantis design studio in La Ferté-Vidame…

At the beginning of July 2023, the newspaper L’écho Républicain reported that “at the very end of a four-hour Community Council meeting at Forêts du Perche, an email from the management of car manufacturer Stellantis announced that the La Ferté-Vidame site was up for sale. This site was used in particular for the running and testing of new vehicles and study prototypes”.

A prototype of the Citroën CX, which celebrates its 50th birthday this year, freezes on the test track at the Citroën test site.

“The few lines sent by Stellantis’ public affairs delegate by email to the President of the Communauté de Communes announce the closure of the La Ferté-Vidame automotive test centre by 31 December 2024. This comes as quite a shock to the region. The test centre covers more than 800 hectares of land in this Perche village of 530 inhabitants, right next to the 200 hectares or so of the Saint-Simon estate, owned by the Département. This makes it the largest private property in France, surrounded by 12 km of walls and not crossed by public roads.

Already, at the end of 2015, PSA (not yet Stellantis), had decided to no longer directly operate its La Ferté-Vidame test centre and delegated it to Segula, a French engineering group. However, PSA retained ownership of the premises and the test track. One of these buildings is of particular interest to us: the Faisanderie. The La Ferté-Vidame site is not just a playground for testers. It has also been the designers’ playground since 2004.

In 2008, we discovered the studio in very good company: the GTbyCitroën concept car took to the road for the first time, even before the Paris Motor Show. What a privilege!

At that time, Robert Peugeot was in charge of innovation and design at PSA. It was he who turned to Jean-Pierre Ploué in 2000 to lure him in as head of Citroën design, and it was also he who came up with the ADN: the Automotive Design Network, the huge liner that is both a technical and design centre located to the west of Paris. The latter was inaugurated in 2004, as was the small studio at La Faisanderie in La Ferté.

Clean, tidy and welcoming, the design centre hides just behind the Faisanderie pavilion and has been in operation since 2004. Twenty years is not enough.

A small studio at La Ferté-Vidame? Not really, because it has almost everything you need to modify the models in style and, above all, it is adjacent to a small oval track where the motorised Clay models can be put through their paces. But unlike the ADN, the Faisanderie is not a new building. It’s a refurbishment of the eponymous ‘pavilion’, located away from the runways and rather quiet (see the aerial views of the site at the end of this post).

It was here that we produced a report on the Citroën Hypnos (above) and the GTbyCitroën (below) in 2008, which was published in issue 1 of the LIGNES/auto print magazine. The La Ferté-Vidame site, with its test tracks, celebrates its 86th anniversary in 2024 and obviously won’t be going any further, which is frankly regrettable. Why are Mercedes, Porsche and so many other manufacturers able to preserve their historic sites but not Stellantis?

In 2008, Gilles Vidal (behind the concept) was still – for two years – a Citroën designer before taking over as head of Peugeot styling.

The story of this design studio based at La Faisanderie, in the heart of the La Ferté-Vidame test track, is a good one, and it was told to us in 2008 by Jean-Pierre Ploué himself (design director of Stellantis Europe). “When we were working on the Citroën C6 project, we came to La Ferté on a large flat esplanade 200 metres from here, because we wanted to see the project models outside. It’s good to be able to evaluate them in a real setting, to compare them with the competition, and to see their potential. We used to spend up to three months there, and in winter we set up tents with heating to keep warm!”

Polystyrene models of the Cactus are positioned on the circular track, with the final styling still some way off…

“Very quickly, this concrete area became a design annex, what I call ‘grain-raised’ design! That day, my modelling manager at the time and I went for a walk and saw these walls in the distance, which hid a building in ruins: it was the abandoned Faisanderie. Back in Vélizy, I spoke about it with Robert Peugeot and the manager of the La Ferté site, with the idea of restoring the building and transforming it into a design studio.”

Following in the footsteps of Citroën and Peugeot, DS Automobiles took over the premises, much to the delight of designers and modellers.

“It has since become a magical place. We commissioned an architect to carry out a state-of-the-art restoration, at the same time as we were building the ADN. This studio has become an extremely effective styling tool. Just imagine that here, we can remotely control styling models in Clay to evaluate them outdoors, and dynamically.” Below, the Citroën concept car “GT by Citroën”.

We had the pleasure (indeed the honour) of being the first to see the GTbyCitroën concept car in action on the small track adjacent to the La Faisanderie design centre. That was back in 2008.

“No Citroën leaves the showroom without passing through this unique styling centre. In fact, I can even say that this tool guarantees the reality of the product: when you freeze a product here and go back to the ADN, there’s a tendency to want to touch it up under the studio lights, but I often refrain from doing so because the judgement from La Ferté is usually the right one!”

Four years after moving into the La Faisanderie studio, Jean-Pierre Ploué (‘only’ Citroën’s styling boss at the time) tested the hypnotic seats of the Hypnos.The interior was designed by Leghanne Earley, who was responsible for the concept’s interior design.

Of course, it wasn’t just Citroën that passed the tough test at the La Ferté studio before being given the nod!Peugeot and DS Automobiles have since joined their cousins. But it is true that the La Ferté site has always been legitimately affiliated to Citroën. It was even on its tracks that the first prototypes of the TPV were photographed during their tests below.

La Faisanderie is therefore a design studio where all styling work can be carried out and, above all, where models of projects under development can be compared in the outdoor area. It was here that all the first Citroëns of the Ploué/Besson era were validated, and here that the programmes were driven for the first time: Clay models weighing several tonnes (up to three for the C5 Tourer model) were motorised and remotely controlled from the studio.

It’s been a long time since design was part of Robert Peugeot’s remit, a long time since Jean-Pierre Ploué was in charge of Citroën design alone, and the importance of Stellantis has meant that new design centres have joined the group. These include Opel’s design centre and, above all, the large Italian design centre that houses the studios of Fiat, Lancia, Alfa Romeo and Maserati.

Jean-Pierre Ploué, on the right, is also Lancia’s Design Director. Here, next to Luca Napolitano, the director of the Italian brand.

It’s in Turin that Jean-Pierre Ploué now lives, because he has demanded that the designers of Italian brands (of which he is one, as he is responsible for the design of the Lancia brand above) immerse themselves in the cultural atmosphere and benefits of this particular city. The city through which the Po and its 141 tributaries flow. The city where the famous Lingotto (below), Fiat’s factory and historic buildings, still stands.

This means that European designers, and in particular those of the French brands DS, Peugeot and Citroën, will have to do without the La Ferté studio, which Jean-Pierre Ploué thought was the ideal tool. But today’s tools are more likely to be worn on the nose in the form of virtual reality headsets. Reality? There’s no substitute for the real thing: a 1:1 scale model with its competitors on the outside and in action. It’s not easy to recreate all this in ADN.

We enjoy being invited from time to time to discover new products on the terrace of l’ADN in the Paris suburbs, but frankly, the studio at La Ferté-Vidame offers a completely different atmosphere!

Admittedly, there’s the large terrace overlooking the DNA for this purpose, but it’s nothing like the intimate track at La Faisanderie in La Ferté-Vidame. You have to move with the times. Stellantis announced last year that this closure was justified by “the desire to reduce the group’s real estate footprint”.

After Peugeot’s emblematic Paris headquarters building at 75 avenue de la Grande Armée above, the Peugeot shop on the Champs Élysées and Citroën’s famous C42 (also historic, below), the La Ferté centre, where the 2CV, Traction, DS and SM were tortured for the good of their customers, will also be abandoned by Stellantis.

Writing in L’Echo Républicain, Xavier Nicolas (chairman of the Forêts du Perche community of municipalities) explained last year that “we’ve been worried for some time now. One of my local councillors works for Segula. His contract expires on 31 December 2024. Segula assures us that the 25 employees will be offered jobs at another site. We ourselves, at the level of the community of municipalities, are putting in place a system that will enable us to offer them jobs in local businesses.”

It was on the small track at the La Ferté-Vidame studio that another Stellantis star was born: the 2016 3008 crossover.

The Mayor, Catherine Stroh, went on to explain that “the closure of the test centre at the end of 2024 will be a major blow for our community. In addition to the staff on site, there are specialists from several makes who come to stay for varying lengths of time to develop new models. This site provided a livelihood not only for the families of the employees, but also for the village.” It’s always a sad day for design lovers – and the professionals involved – when a studio closes. All the more so when the studio is much more than just a studio. This is the case at Stellantis, since the studio at La Ferté-Vidame is a collateral victim of the sale of the historic site, which has been located there since 1936 when Citroën bought it from Christian Vieljeux.

So design ‘raised on grain’, as Jean-Pierre Ploué used to say, is now raised on digital… I’d like to be sure that putting on a virtual reality headset and climbing to the top of the ADN building on a soulless terrace will replace the little haven of peace – and work – that was the Ferté studio and its little dedicated track. But I have my doubts…


On Monday 29 January 2024, LIGNES/auto contacted Catherine Stroh, the mayor of La Ferté-Vidame, one of the two communes on which the estate extends. For the time being, the Mayor is awaiting the meeting with potential investors. This meeting is due to take place in February, i.e. very soon. She does not yet know whether the estate will be sold as concessions or as a whole. She recalls that in 2020 she had contacted the Stellantis department concerned to propose setting up a Citroën museum in one of the many buildings on the site, but the response was clear: it was not possible to envisage this as the investment would have been too high. To be continued shortly…


To be viewed on a large screen if possible…

La Ferté-Vidame – the blue marker – is around 150 kilometres west of Paris. The site was chosen because the Citroën testers didn’t have the sun in their eyes when they went there in the morning. The same was true when they returned in the evening… Remember that there were no speed limits in those days!
La Ferté-Vidame has just over 500 inhabitants. A village (1) that seems very small compared to the Stellantis site (2) of more than 800 hectares, the largest private area completely walled in over its 12 kilometres of enclosure!
You enter the site through the main door in 1. In 3, the legendary test tracks that have seen hundreds of new models run, starting with the pre-war TPV prototypes. In 2, the small styling studio, far from the test track…
The private estate was a special hunting ground.The house, known as the Faisanderie, was visited by hunters. Ponds, including the very famous “octagon”, were very close to the pavilion, which was transformed into a design studio in 2004.
In 1, you can see the entrance to the site. In 2, the large esplanade where the designers used to go before the Faisanderie was converted into a design studio in 2004.This can be seen in 3, with its tarmac track.
Here’s a closer look at the Faisanderie design studio. The restored historic building is in 1, accessed from the road on the left, which overlooks the façade.In 2, the design studio is at the rear of the Faisanderie. Several models can be judged here under cover. In 3, the circular track and the outdoor area where the models are judged and reworked in full light.
In the background, the roof of the Faisanderie. In front, the fully glazed studio overlooking the small circular track. Photo taken in 2008 when the Citroën Hypnos and Citroën GTby were driven for the first time.


The Faisanderie pavilion in its glory days…
The pavilion was abandoned until the late 1990s…
Thanks to the determination of Robert Peugeot and the initiative of Jean-Pierre Ploué, the renovation of the Faisanderie pavilion was completed in 2004. At the same time as the ADN project in the Paris region!
The work required a great deal of expertise, time and money. Which makes it all the more regrettable that all this will no longer be of use to Stellantis…
The Faisanderie has been completely refurbished, but alas, the designers didn’t leave any unknown prototypes in the attic. No secret Citroën will be found here, just as three TPV prototypes were found in the attic of a barn further from the studio, near the runways…
The workers are in the large glass-covered room, just a few days before the studio is due to be delivered. A fine tool that Peugeot, DS and Citroën designers will now have to do without…
Next Post

Hommage au studio de design Stellantis à la Ferté-Vidame

Au début du mois de juillet 2023, le journal L’écho Républicain relate « qu’à la toute fin des quatre heures de Conseil communautaire aux Forêts du Perche, un mail de la direction du constructeur automobile Stellantis annonce la mise en vente du site de la Ferté-Vidame. Ce site était notamment […]

Subscribe US Now