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Citroen cuts loose its C3 hatch

Over and out: Citroen has pulled the C3 from its line-up for the second time in two years after slow sales and a competitive market segment.

Competitive Australian market makes it impossible for Citroen's C3 to succeed

22 Apr 2015

CITROEN’S C3 hatch is being dumped from its line-up as it is unable to compete in Australia's highly competitive light-car segment against cheaper and more feature-rich rivals.

The decision comes about 18 months after the C3 was reintroduced to Australia in a facelifted second-generation guise, after disappearing from Citroen's local line-up almost a year before that.

As reported by GoAuto in January, the brand's distributor Sime Darby Motor Group Australia confirmed it would streamline both the Citroen and Peugeot line-up to remove models that don't make financial sense or under-perform in the market, starting with the C4 Aircross SUV.

Citroen Automobiles Australia national sales manager Shaun Mackle said the C3 is in run-out, with dealers depleting existing stock.

“There is no replacement,” he said. “Once they are gone we won’t revisit the C3 unless we can get the price and equipment equation right.” Mr Mackle was not able to give a figure on how many C3s were being held by dealers and on the ground at CAA.

The C3, Citroen’s smallest car on the Australian market, has had a mercurial role on the Australian new car stage. Last year it sold only 154 units, about an eighth of its best result when it was launched in 2003.

Pricing starts at $19,990, plus on-road costs for the 1.2-litre C3 Seduction manual and rises to $25,990 for the 1.6-litre Exclusive auto.

Its high entry price means it is undercut by other Europeans including the Renault Clio ($16,790), Volkswagen Polo ($16,490) and the Fiat Panda ($16,500).

“This is the new way Citroen intends to operate in Australia,” said Citroen Automobiles Australia PR and communications manager Tyson Bowen.

“We’ll take a step back, look at the entire portfolio, see what’s strong and weak and then make a decision about the model line up.” Mr Mackle said for the same reason, the baby C1 model which is shared with the Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 107 in Europe, was not on the cards for Australia.

“We’ve looked at that segment and it’s very competitive and extremely price sensitive,” he said.

“We can’t make the figures work for C1.” The C1 would compete with the Suzuki Celerio at $12,990 driveaway, Holden Barina Spark at $12,890 and Mitsubishi Mirage at $11,490, both excluding on-roads.

“An example is the C4,” Mr Mackle said of the model to be launched in the third quarter of this year.

“We took our time on this car to ensure we will have the right mix of price and equipment.

“We couldn’t be the cheapest but we found a balance. The C4 with the 1.2-litre engine and six-speed automatic is a model we know will do well.” Mr Mackle reiterated what the company said at the recent DS3 launch in Brisbane about a fresh start in Australia for the French brand.

“We’re here for the long term,” he said. “We're rebuilding the brand and we won’ t make only short-term decisions.” The small-car duties for Citroen will be filled by the DS3 that was launched last week in a one-specification, two body-style variant priced from $33,990.

But the DS3, part of the upmarket DS-line from Citroen that has recently become a separate brand in Europe and China, is available only with a manual gearbox that will dent its popularity in Australia.

“We’re hopeful of the future for DS3,” said Mr Bowen. “We are waiting to see developments from (Citroen parent) PSA,” he said of the Australian requests for a variant with an automatic transmission.

The C3 hit Australia in July 2003, imported by Citroen's then distributor Ateco Automotive with a $19,990 price tag. Sales were brisk with 908 sold in its first half year.

But it never revisited this popularity. It was pulled from the market in December 2012 because of poor sales, recording only 88 for the full 2012 year. It was then priced from $23,990.

Ateco relinquished distribution in February 2013 and the C3 returned to Australian showrooms in November 2013 with a new importer, Sime Darby Motor Group Australia.

For calendar year 2013, only 37 cars were sold and for 2014, grew to 154. The year-to-date result for 2015 is 47 cars.

This is well below others in the segment such as the Peugeot 208 which has shifted 234 units in the first three months of the year, or even the Skoda Fabia which has sold 149 in that period.

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