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Citroen to build on diesel strength

C4 concept: The production version of the C4 will boast turbo-diesel power in Australia.

Turbo-diesel power is set to get another shove courtesy of Citroen and Alfa

9 Jul 2004

CITROEN will follow Peugeot, Audi and Volkswagen’s lead by offering next year’s new C4 small car with turbo-diesel motivation.

Set to be Citroen Australia’s second diesel model following the highly successful C5 HDi sedan and wagon, C4 should land here in June 2005 following its Paris motor show debut this September alongside a facelifted version of theC5 itself.

While Audi has just launched the $47,800 A3 2.0 TDI as a performance leader of its new A3 range and Volkswagen is expected to release both budget-conscious 1.9 and performance-biased 2.0 TDI versions of its forthcoming Golf V range,Citroen will follow suite with a new 82kW 1.6-litre HDi engine for C4.

While Peugeot is currently the passenger car leader in diesel power Down Under with 50 per cent of that market, Citroen is next best, selling around 50 C5HDis per month - and importer Ateco Automotive will hope for some rub-off sales with C4 HDi.

However, the diesel push by Ateco, which also distributes Alfa Romeo and Kia vehicles here, won’t stop there.

Signalling a major shift in direction for the Alfa brand in Australia, where Ateco has deliberately targeted luxury German brands as its major rival,the first diesel-powered Alfa Romeo will be the new 157 medium sedan, which should debut here in mid-2006.

Some 76 per cent of total Alfa Romeo production is now diesel, none of which is sold in Australia and all of which is manual. But a complete range of automatics by 2006 should change that.

"The UK market is certainly very strong on diesel but they’re attacking more the Citroen and Peugeot-type market rather than Audi, BMW and Mercedes," said Ateco governing director Neville Crichton.

"We’re quite a bit different here. I think Alfa’s seen certainly as a luxury brand up there with the Germans.

"In Europe, particularly Italy, Alfa is sold more as a fleet car. They’re selling it down – they’re selling the bottom end of the car, not the top end.

We made a decision here to bring in the top end product, so it’s certainly a different market they’re attacking in Italy.

"If you look at our sales versus BMW manual for manual – because we virtually don’t have an automatic – we outsell every one of the luxury brands if you compare manual to manual. We are playing a little bit with our arms tied behind our back until we get a complete range of automatics and that won’t really be until 2006. It was meant to be 2005 but it will be 2006."Asked if Ateco had a diesel future, Mr Crichton couldn’t hide his enthusiasm. "Absolutely. Absolutely. In fact, we’ve got some on the water now just to evaluate. Their performance is fantastic. The only problem in Australia is that you’re paying a bit more for diesel, but the cars are very good and even the high performance cars are economical.

"Without doubt it will change. We see with Citroen diesel going up all the time," he said.

33 center imageIn the meantime Ateco will keep a watching brief on Kia Sorento sales, which have been limited by supply to around 120-130 per month. A larger allocation of around 200 a month is imminent, but a diesel-powered Sorento would still need tocome from that allocation.

Given Ateco says it could easily sell 250 petrol Sorentos per month, a diesel would only cannibalise the mainstream petrol variant.

But if Sorento supply exceeds 200 per month, Sorento diesel may yet see Australian shores.

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