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Citroen readies for big 2017

Light years: One of the models under consideration for Citroen’s Australian line-up is the new-generation C3 light hatch.

Cactus not hitting sales highs but more Citroen product is coming

12 Aug 2016

SALES of Citroen’s C4 Cactus crossover have failed to fire since its Australian launch earlier this year, but the French brand looks set to expand its portfolio with a diverse range of product in 2017.

Since its launch in March, Citroen has sold 129 examples of the Cactus, keeping it at the back of the sub-$40,000 small SUV pack.

The only models it is outselling in the tough segment are the SsangYong Korando (113), its sister company Peugeot’s soon-to-be-replaced 3008 (70) and the Chinese-built Chery J11 (two).

The Cactus is offered in Australia in two guises – a manual petrol variant from $26,990, before on-roads, and a turbo-diesel paired with an automated manual gearbox for $29,990.

Citroen Australia PR and communications manager Tyson Bowen said the company expected the automated manual transmission would keep some buyers away and highlighted the competitiveness of the small-SUV segment.

“Even at launch we knew there would be a certain number of people that wouldn’t consider it purely because of the transmission,” he said. “Even though those who have decided to take the diesel have fallen in love and they are fine it’s not a problem.

“When we launched, obviously there was a lot of PR support, then marketing support kicked in eight weeks later so there is a lag.

“Obviously we would love to sell more cars. But being realistic, it is sort of where we thought it would be for the time being. It’s such a competitive segment and it doesn’t stand still very often. You’ve got to stay on people’s radar and the team have got a few things up their sleeve. It’s sort of where they want it to be.” He added that the imminent loss of the C5 mid-size sedan and wagon range and the discontinuation last year of the C3 hatch and C4 Aircross crossover has had an impact on sales as well and that the Cactus volume would not make up for the cuts.

“Cactus can only fill a certain amount of that potential. So once the product comes to replenish the portfolio, then you can start to talk numbers and aspirations,” he said.

Mr Bowen said the focus for Citroen was not on huge sales increases, rather on positioning new and existing models appropriately and supporting the dealer network.

“We have got a pretty active sales team and product team and they know what they need to do,” he said.

“It’s just about making sure we put the best foot forward. We are not chasing numbers. It’s about making sure the dealers have the support they need to look after existing and potential customers.

“Once we start to see product updates – mooted updates to Picasso as well, next year – and a couple of other things, I think we will be in a stronger position.

“If you look at raw numbers, they are down, but we have also got C5 coming to an end and we haven’t hidden that fact and there are a few people that desperately wanted them. That takes a bit of volume out of the mix.” While Citroen is yet to confirm it, the new product is likely to include the new-generation C3 that was revealed in June, as well as facelifted versions of the C4 Picasso and Grand C4 Picasso seven-seater that will lob in 2017.

A production version of the Aircross SUV concept from last year’s Shanghai motor show that would sit above the Cactus as a Mazda CX-5 competitor is also a strong possibility.

There is a chance that the Citroen light-commercial van range will expand beyond the small Berlingo delivery van, but a decision is still yet to be made on which one of the new-generation twin models – the Peugeot Expert or Citroen Dispatch – will get the go-ahead for Australia.

“Nothing has been confirmed yet, but certainly on the Citroen side, Berlingo is a mainstay and Citroen has bigger profile in the LCV segment,” Mr Bowen said.

“In the long run, looking at a vehicle above Berlingo is certainly on radar but just a bit premature.” Mr Bowen said there was a massive amount of work happening in the back end at Citroen Australia to shore up the business and prepare for a new chapter for not only Citroen, but also Peugeot and the newly separated DS brand.

“Whilst we enter a quieter period, the appearance may be that we are in a holding pattern, but there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to prepare for an exciting 2017,” he said.

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