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Aircross SUVs to spur Citroen recovery

Airborne: Citroen is ramping up its mode offerings with a focus on SUVs, and that includes and an Australian launch for the C5 Aircross.

Citroen C3 Aircross and C5 Aircross confirmed for Australia

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Citroen logo16 Mar 2018

CITROEN Australia has confirmed that two SUVs are headed Down Under as part of a fresh product onslaught for the floundering French brand, kicking off with the C3 Aircross crossover in the final quarter, followed by the mid-size C5 Aircross sometime in the middle of 2019.

Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the C3 light car in Sydney this week, Peugeot Citroen Australia managing director Anouk Poelmann said both models represent the best opportunity for Citroen to finally resonate with local buyers.

“At the Citroen press conference (at the Geneva motor show earlier this month), CEO Linda Jackson often used the term ‘product offensive’ and I like to use the same term,” she said.

“With the C3, C3 Aircross and C5 Aircross, we have a great opportunity to also be offensive in the Australian market.”

The C3 Aircross is closely related to the C3 hatch, but features distinct bodywork and dashboard treatments, as well as extra ground clearance.

The C5 Aircross is based on the larger and more sophisticated PSA Group EMP2 platform that underpins the Peugeot 3008 and 5008 SUVs. Both new Citroen SUVs are front-wheel-drive-only propositions for now.

Citroen and Peugeot switched Australian distribution mid last year from Sime Darby Motors Group to Inchcape Australasia.

Ms Poelmann admitted that Citroen took a back seat following the change in distribution, while a sustainable long-term strategy could be formulated for the Australian market.

She also revealed that an international internal conference would take place this month so the key elements of the plan can be formulated.

“When we took over the business, we mainly focused on the network, on Peugeot,” Ms Poelmann said. “And in the first month as a new importer, we launched the 3008 and then a couple of months later we were preparing for the 5008.

“Now, with the C3, we can turn towards Citroen… and there are (the Aircross) products coming in the SUV segment, which is the growing segment, so you will see and hear more from us in the coming months.

“And we are, internally, working on a new strategy, on a new business model, strengthening the brand, creating more awareness and more interest. Doing a lot of good things for the brand because the brand deserves it. It has such an amazing history, and also in Australia.”

While Ms Poelmann acknowledged Citroen’s sales drop in Australia – sales last year slumped to just 735 registrations, down from 4000 units a decade earlier – she said there was still significant residual awareness and affection for the brand in Australia.

“We have spoken to customers who drive Citroen today,” she explained. “We know there are a lot of passionate people out there that are still following the brand, so we need to get in touch with those customers again and then build a wider customer base.”

Aiding Citroen’s position in Australia is the strong start for the 3008 and its seven-seat 5008 sibling, which are currently Peugeot’s first and second best-selling models respectively.

In SUV-mad Australia, it gives PCA extra bargaining power with the Citroen Aircross duo.

“We put a lot of pressure on PSA,” Mrs Poelmann said. “And I think because we already did a good job across the past nine months, that’s an opportunity to raise our voice and be a strong partner for PSA and represent a voice for the Australian customer.

“For us, at the moment the focus is on Peugeot Citroen. We need to turn around the business, make it profitable for the dealers, establish good brands, meet customer demands… there’s a lot of work to do. We see improvements and we see growth, and good things are happening.

“There are so many products coming. So much opportunity.”

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