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Citroen Cs the light

See C1: how artist Bernie Walsh envisions Citroen's C1.

The historic Citroen marque has big plans to emerge from the shadows in Australia, and the C1 will play a vital sales role

19 Mar 2002

CITROEN head office in Paris wants a one per cent share of the local automotive market by around 2005, by which time Citroen Australia will have 25 new models at its disposal.

The all-new, Toyota-based C1 micro-hatch, the name of which was top-secret until now, will play an integral role in the pioneering French maker's new model revolution in Australia.

Citroen currently sells about 1000 vehicles per annum Down Under, or around 0.2 per cent of total passenger car sales, and hopes to double this figure within 12 months of releasing the five-door C3 in August.

A turbo-diesel and possible V6 wagon addition to the C5 range, plus petrol and diesel versions of Citroen's compact Xsara Picasso people-mover will also increase the French maker's fortunes this year.

But this will not be enough to achieve the 8000 or more sales required, on current figures, to achieve a one per cent market share - which Citroen commercial division director Francois Dembin says is Citroen's Australian target within the next five years.

"We expect to double Australian Citroen volumes in the first year of C3 sales, but the medium term goal is to increase our market share there from 0.2 per cent one full per cent," he said.

"From 1000 to 2000 sales is achievable, but it won't happen every year. Having said that, we'd be delighted to achieve this by 2005." It just so happens that Citroen's model proliferation plans mean that Citroen will have released 25 new model variants internationally before 2004 - and Australia is likely to become home to most of them, including no fewer than seven all-new models.

Starting with the C1 micro-hatch and extending to the C8 full-size people-mover, the Citroen range will be virtually unrecognisable from the Xsara/C5 lineup currently offered here.

The C1 is an AO-sized joint-venture five-door based on a Toyota platform that will also sprout the next Echo. The car's name was confirmed by Citroen CEO Claude Satinet exclusively to Australian journalists at the Geneva motor show recently.

"We announced in December the co-operation between PSA and Toyota to make a small car," he said.

"The small car will be used by both Peugeot and Citroen brands, and for the Citroen brand it's logical to call it C1." Mr Satinet confirmed C1 would be built at a joint-venture Czech Republic plant by 2005 and that Toyota would supply petrol engines while PSA would provide diesel power.

He said C1 would be an international product for sale around the world, with local volumes of the cut-price entry car expected to rival those of the larger C3 five-door.

C3, Xsara, C5 and Berlingo will be joined here before the end of 2003 by the niche-volume C3 Pluriel convertible-utility, the C8 people-mover revealed in production form at Geneva and a four-wheel drive version of the C5 wagon, possibly borrowing technology from the C-crosser concept first shown at Frankfurt.

But Mr Satinet denied the existence of a C5 soft-roader and was even less forthcoming about the recently spied C2, a three-door replacement for Britain's top-selling hot-hatch, the Saxo.

Due to surface by 2004, the C2 super-mini will be based on C3's new A-platform, as will the Xsara-replacing C4 - likely to go on sale here by early in 2005 - or a rumoured Citroen sports car expected around the same time, possibly dubbed C7.

"I don't want to talk too much about the future, but you already know about C3, C5 and C8," he said. "Three years ago we engineered the C6 Lignage concept car (a new luxury replacement for XM, also due around 2004), which looks like the production car.

"Pluriel will go into production within one year, at the beginning of next year. It's quite like the concept you've seen, which was a very advanced concept, and will be called C3 Pluriel because it's based on the same platform." Mr Satinet said Citroen was working with Bertone and Italdesign on many projects, but would not confirm the C4 Xsara replacement's existence.

"One day, but I think it will be much later than 2003," he said. "Xsara was at the end of 1997, so if you make the calculation with something like seven years, which is the normal average life of a car, you go beyond 2003. If a car is not successful it may be replaced after six years, but that's not the case with Xsara.

"After announcing C1, missing in the list is C2, C4 and C7 - but I don't want to talk about these models. If one day we have a lot of money to invest we will build a sports car, but I have no specific ideas to make a C7." Mr Satinet said Citroen's short-term target was to produce 1.3 million vehicles worldwide, with 1.5 million the goal by 2005. Citroen is currently making big in-roads in Europe, with the sell-out success of Picasso helping to achieve more rapid growth than both PSA partner Peugeot and arch-rival Renault.

But Citroen officials admit the third-rung French maker has along way to go in terms of brand recognition - especially in markets like Australia, where Citroen remains one of the longest surviving European brands after 77 continuous years of sales.

"We have been much too discrete in the past," admits Mr Dembin. "To be honest, we might not have had the most suitable product, which was one of the reasons our profile wasn't higher. But I believe the current range has what it takes to do better.

"There are some countries where Citroen outsells both Peugeot and Renault, so I don't believe its God's rule that the current ranking remains. We have more to gain than lose by Renault's success. Their marketing efforts will bring more attention to French cars and we'll benefit from that," he said.

Citroen expects to expand it Australian dealer network in preparation for its increased sales volume, with the Victorian city of Geelong recently becoming its 14th dealer nationwide. Other new Citroen dealerships are also planned for far north Queensland, the Sunshine Coast, Tasmania and Melbourne.

Citroen's C-car revolution:
When we see them 2002
C3 five-door hatch - August
C5 V6 and HDi wagon - August
Xsara Picasso people-mover - December 2003 international
C5 all-wheel drive wagon
C8 full-size people-mover
C3 Pluriel convertible/utility 2004 international
C2 three-door hot hatch
C6 XM luxury car replacement 2005 international
C1 five-door micro
C4 Xsara hatch replacement
C7 sports coupe

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