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Citroen says Australian sales sustainable

Number one: Citroen’s C4 hatch range was the top-selling model for the brand in Australia last year with 214 sales.

We can tough it out and grow in 2014, says new Aussie Citroen distributor

Citroen logo27 Feb 2014

By TIM NICHOLSON

CITROEN Automobiles Australia (CAA) is keen to boost sales after its less-than-stellar result in 2013, but the company says it believes small volumes are sustainable in this market.

Last year, the French car-maker sold 1180 vehicles in Australia, representing a 31 per cent drop on the previous year’s haul of 1702 units.

The C4 hatch was the most popular model in 2013, with 214 sales, closely followed by the DS3 premium light-hatch on 204 sales, while the Berlingo light-commercial van took third place with 178 units sold.

Last year’s overall total was less than a third of the volumes it enjoyed during its recent peak of 3803 units in 2007 and a far cry from the 35 per cent increase that CAA general manager John Startari last year predicted for the 2013-14 financial year.

A change in distributor from Ateco Automotive to Sime Darby in February last year has been partly blamed for the slow sales growth, with the new management having to clear old stock in 2013 in order to realign some of its models, including the C4 and C5.

With some of its core models recording single-digit sales across several months last year, CAA national marketing manager Manuel Tyras said the French company’s local arm was in a good position to manage small sales volumes, thanks to an “extremely sustainable” business model.

“We have got a good team at Sime Darby, we have great support from PSA,” he said.

“We have got a business model in place where low volumes are sustainable because we know we are a niche brand. Of course, we want to grow them, but we don’t want to be overly ambitious. We want to make sure that it’s sustainable.”

Mr Tyras would not go into specifics when talking sales targets for 2014, but said the company hoped to better the low sales of 2013.

“Obviously we want to do better than that (2013). It was a transition year for us.

It was all about launching models, learning about our customers and now it is about capitalising on those learnings and moving forward.”

Mr Tyras ruled out ditching some of its slow-selling C-line models in favour of introducing new niche offerings such as the C4 Cactus and maintaining the increasingly popular DS range.

“They (the C-line) still do a good job for us,” he said. “C5 especially does a really good job. It’s one of the great unknowns in terms of the large-car category, it punches above its weight.

“The C4 is turning into more of a diesel car, there are lot of diesel owners.

They sucked a lot of sales in May/June last year so that’s why sales were a little bit slower in the second half because we just had to catch up on production which takes time so that was an opportunity that we lost but that is all back on track. And C3 keeps on keeping on it’s a good little car at a great price.” One of Citroen’s shining lights is the Berlingo LCV which has a strong customer base and regularly outsells its passenger-car stablemates.

Last year, Mr Startari ruled out adding more light-commercial vehicles to the Citroen range, but Mr Tyras said the company would investigate any available vehicle in that class and evaluate its chances of success in Australia.

“I think if the right product comes in at the right price, we will consider it but at the moment Berlingo is a class leader in that light-commercial segment and we are committed to the short- and long-bodied versions of those cars.

“Berlingo has been there such a long time and done such a good job for us. It’s a very strong nameplate,” he said.

The recent announcement that Chinese automotive giant Dongfeng will take a 14 per cent stake in Citroen parent company PSA, in partnership with the French government and the Peugeot family, was welcome news to the Australian operation, with Mr Tyras saying it would put more focus on the region.

“We are really happy,” he said. “We think it is a strategic foot in the Asian market which is important for Peugeot to make. You have got a brand that is strong in Europe aligning itself with a brand that is strong in Asia, it just makes sense.” Mr Tyras said he did not believe the connection with the Chinese car-maker would have an impact on brand perception, citing other recent tie-ins between European and Asian brands as evidence to the contrary.

“Just like Tata bought into Land Rover and Jaguar and just like Geely bought into Volvo, you have only seen them go from strength to strength, so I think it is a great thing,” he said.

“Our cars are predominantly made in Europe. Eighty per cent are made in Paris, France.

That’s where our products come from. The Chinese market services that Chinese market but there are other Asian areas that they can now supplement their product.”

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