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Citroen plans for future growth in Australia

An artist's impression: A design sketch of the C4 Picasso.

More sales, models, dealers and visibility will drive Citroen through to 2012

8 May 2007

CITROEN intends to maintain profitability and almost triple its sales volume in Australia over the next five years.

The goal is 10,000 units per year by 2012, aided by a host of fresh models that will take the 90-year-old brand into new market segments. A greater commercial vehicle presence is also part of the strategy.

Citroen fired its first salvo earlier this month in the shape of the C4 Picasso, a seven-seat people-mover which importer Ateco Automotive attempted to introduce to Australia on several occasions during the vehicle’s previous generation.

The company now claims that it ensured the best chance of survival for the Picasso by waiting to introduce the most appealing models available to it from France – diesel power and a fully automatic gearbox.

Offering a host of desirable, and profitable, options on the Picasso, such as a panoramic sunroof, satellite navigation and a Premium Pack, should also broaden the people-mover’s appeal.

A five-seat version is also under consideration, although Ateco plans to assess the seven-seater’s sales performance in Australia over the next few months before a decision is made. If the five-seater C4 Picasso gets the green light, we could see it by about March 2008.

Citroen is not ignoring its volume-selling C4 hatchback models, either. Ateco is in discussions with Citroen head office in France to homologate a C4 hatchback fitted with the C4 Picasso’s 2.0-litre HDi turbo-diesel and a six-speed automatic gearbox.

“We are working with (France) to overcome some (engineering) issues, so we can get into that market a little bit stronger,” said Citroen Australia general manager Miles Williams.

“VW (Golf) and Peugeot (307) have a version,” he said, adding that getting the C4 2.0 HDi auto – to consolidate sales of the existing C4 1.6 HDi – into Australia by the end of this year is being “hopeful”.

“Honestly, we should be selling many more C4s than what we are already selling,” Mr Williams said. “Relative to some of our competitors, I think there is a lot more potential that we could be getting out of C4.” Last year, Citroen averaged 127 C4 sales each month.

Also under consideration for the C4 in Australia is the Chinese market-focussed C4 sedan (“We’ve already put our hand up for that,” revealed a Citroen spokesman), as well as an all-wheel drive C4 hatchback that is currently undergoing development.

Further down the track for the C4 is the much-heralded hybrid version, combining a diesel engine with an electric motor. However, it is looking increasingly likely that this vehicle will not be here before 2012, and will probably be in the next-generation C4.

33 center imageFrom top: C4 Picasso, C-Crosser, C-Sportlounge concept, C4 HDi hatch, C4 sedan and Berlingo van (bottom).

Citroen in France has announced that, by 2015, all its production vehicles will offer some sort of hybrid technology.

Much sooner than that will be the arrival of Citroen’s first SUV.

The C-Crosser, which is essentially a Mitsubishi Outlander with a Citroen face and HDi diesel engine, is earmarked for introduction in Australia some time later in 2008. Exactly when remains a mystery, as Ateco is awaiting confirmation of a C-Crosser fitted with a diesel engine/automatic gearbox combination.

In Europe, it will also be available with Mitsubishi’s 125kW 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine mated to a CVT gearbox, as well as the 162kW 3.0-litre V6 with a six-speed automatic transmission.

At about the same time, Citroen will be unveiling the all-new C5 internationally.

Rumoured to be much prettier, roomier and more refined than today’s 2001-vintage version, the C5 II will make its world debut at the Paris motor show in September 2008, so expect to see it on Australian soil in the first half of 2009.

Stylistic elements from Citroen’s well-received C-SportLounge concept car are expected to make it on the C5 II, which will once again be offered in five-door hatchback and four-door wagon guises.

In the micro-car segment, it seems increasingly unlikely that we will see the C1 four-seater hatchback that Citroen shares with Peugeot (107) and Toyota (Aygo).

“We need Toyota Australia’s approval before we can sell this car,” said the Citroen spokesman.

Limited production from Hungary is another factor, as would be pricing, which would need to be below $17,000 for the C1 to be viable.

Nevertheless, Ateco has made moves to bring the C1 to Australia.

“When the production levels rise, or sales levels in Europe drop off, maybe then they will consider our request,” Mr Williams said.

On the commercial vehicle front, Citroen has tried for some time to add a turbo-diesel engine to its steady-selling Berlingo light van.

“I’m hoping to get the Berlingo diesel off the ground by the end of this year,” Mr Williams said.

Ateco will also be making feasibility presentations to Citroen in France later this year or early next year for the Dispatch, a mid-sized van of about Volkswagen Transporter size that PSA Peugeot-Citroen have co-developed with Italy’s Fiat group.

By 2009, Citroen will also be putting the finishing touches on the second-generation Berlingo van, as well as the Multispace people-mover version.

This time around, Australians will see both, as Citroen ensures that an automatic gearbox will be made available from the onset, to appease an increasing number of automatic transmission buyers in Europe.

Achieving growth and profitability every year, Ateco has seen its Citroen franchise flourish from 201 sales with just two models (the Xantia and XM) and two staff members in 1996, to 3507 sales with eight distinct models and 22 staff in 2006.

This year the target is 4000 sales, with sustained growth every year for the next five.

Dealer numbers will continue to increase from the present 30 Citroen (in 1996 it was just five nationally), with a focus outside of the capital cities.

“Generally, I am very happy with the dealer network in the metropolitan area,” Mr Williams said. “But where we’re really lacking is a network in the rural area.

“We’re having a look at the whole thing. Over the next 12 months we’ll be adding more dealers.” Mr Williams said he was looking at possible outlets in Albany, Bairnsdale, Ballarat, Bendigo, Dubbo, Geelong, Launceston, Mt Gambier, Shepparton and Tamworth. Kicking things off this month is a new outlet in Coffs Harbour.

With all the new-model activity highlighted above, and other releases still to be revealed, it is clear that Citroen is moving up a gear, armed with a determination and confidence that Ateco believes will be recognised by buyers.

“I know this is ambitious, but I do believe it (10,000 sales per annum) is potentially achievable,” Mr Williams said. “I don’t think 10,000 units is mainstream, but it would provide consumers with more confidence if they saw a lot more of our cars on the road.”
What's coming from Citroen:
Berlingo HDi t/d Q4 2007
C4 2.0 HDi Q1 2008
C4 Picasso 5-seat* Q1 2008
Dispatch van Q3 2008
C4 sedan* Q3 2008
C1* Q4 2008
C5 MkII 2009
Berlingo MkII 2009
Berlingo Multispace 2009
C3 MkII 2009/10
* Australian release TBC

Read more:

First drive: Citroen eyes Odyssey with C4 Picasso

Citroen C4 Picasso drive impressions

Citroen adds diesel to C4 hatch

First look: French unveil Outlander clones

Triple treat from Citroen

First look: Citroen previews new Picasso

First look: Citroen gives its C4 hatch the boot!

Read Citroen car reviews

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