News - Citroen
Citroen plots Aussie ‘rebirth’ with new line-up
Berlingo, C4 Cactus under review as Citroen focuses on C3 Aircross, C5 Aircross SUVs
30 Apr 2019
CITROEN Australia plans to move forward with “a small but highly impactful model line-up” as most of its existing models are likely to be discontinued as part of the French brand’s “rebirth” Down Under.
Peugeot Citroen Australia (PCA) managing director Ben Farlow has revealed that traditional automotive business strategies will be abandoned for the Citroen brand as the company, under independent distributor Inchcape Australasia, looks to adopt new approaches in collaboration with PSA Group headquarters in France.
“We will rebuild this brand as nonconformists inspired by our customers – truly experimental and innovative in the ways that we attract new customers, because our size gives us the freedom to do so,” Mr Farlow said.
“Today, we attract a very particular type of customer. They’ve done their research, value ride comfort, specification, and at their core have become brand loyalists. And (we) will introduce a whole new generation to this distinctive brand.
“We will build our product offering around what they demand, not what others believe we should.”
Mr Farlow acknowledged Citroen’s poor sales performance over the past two years under Inchcape, which took over from previous importer Sime Darby Motors in May 2017.
Only 494 sales were recorded for the entire brand last year, down from 735 the previous year and a far cry from the 3800-plus sales it racked up in 2007.
“It would be fair to say, though, that for the past two years, Citroen has been in hibernation, in part due to necessity but largely because the product the market desires was on its way to Australia,” he said.
“In that time, however, we have interrogated every element of the business. We looked at online agency selling models, online business environments and a multitude of other new ways of approaching our business.
“Some of the ideas are still in work. Others have been dumped. And in many cases, we just simply couldn’t bring new ideas to market because either our thinking was a little too forward or regulations did not yet currently allow us to do so.
“But we will continue to push boundaries in the way that we think about bringing this product to market. And our movement – through innovative approaches – will soon begin to grab.”
With Citroen Australia’s focus firmly on the C3 light hatch, the just-launched C3 Aircross small SUV and the C5 Aircross mid-size SUV due in the third quarter, Mr Farlow said that all other models are subject to review.
“Based on the forward strategy around Citroen and the type of cars we need to deliver and the type of spirit that you’ve got from the sense of the content – the brand we want to build, it’s more youthful energy than maybe we’ve seen in the past – I think our whole line-up has then been under review,” he said.
“No decisions have been taken as yet, but … the C3, C3 Aircross and C5 Aircross are what we see the future as. We’re going to build it through SUV.
“Models that we’re in discussion on at the moment are C4 Cactus, Berlingo – which will be influenced heavily by the success of Peugeot commercial vehicles.
“What was important for me is that everyone knows that the current line-up is not going to be the line-up by the end of the month.”
Despite accounting for more than half of Citroen Australia’s sales in 2018, Mr Farlow questioned if the Berlingo still has a role to play due to PCA’s inability to provide “the resources and the focus that it requires” now that Peugeot Australia is bringing three LCV models to its line-up, including the competing Partner small van.
“Now that we’ve got a real strong SUV focus on Citroen, which we haven’t had before, it was a difficult choice but a choice of what we want to focus on and how can we build the brand,” he said.
“In the last two-to-three years, Citroen has become the Berlingo in our sales, in our focus in dealers. And I think taking a break from that and focusing on commercial vehicles in Peugeot gives our dealers (the ability) to build Citroen through SUV and the ground up.
“In time, depending on what happens with Peugeot vans and how we do with Citroen SUV, we might ramp up our efforts in commercial vehicles in Citroen if the market is there incremental to Peugeot. But I think that will be years (away), not in the near future.”
Asked if PCA was conceding ground with Peugeot Australia given Citroen Australia is already an established player in the small-van segment, Mr Farlow said this was not the case.
“I think the skill will be working with our network in ensuring that a Berlingo driver and buyer understands and appreciates the benefits of Partner is not a compromise to a Berlingo at all,” he said.
Mr Farlow said stock of the pre-facelift C4 Cactus small SUV will run dry in the coming “months, not years”, with Citroen Australia to likely not import the facelifted model that has been on sale in Europe since early last year due to it being at odds with the C3 Aircross.
“I don’t see a long-term future for C4 Cactus in Australia,” he said. “How we manage through that model this year and what that means for the network, we haven’t taken those decisions yet. I want them to be as part of the decision as us.
“They need to get their heads around … the two Aircross models. Once they understand that, then the discussion needs to be had around then is there a role for C4 Cactus?
“I have a view, but until I understand their view, I don’t want to commit to anything.”
Mr Farlow added that the Grand C4 Picasso people-mover “will no longer be available in the Australian market” due to a lack of demand, with no new orders being taken.
“The remaining Picassos are in the network as we speak and there aren’t many,” he said.
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