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Citroen to expand, revitalise dealer network

Battler: Even if a fresh start for Citroen under importer Sime Darby fails to boost sales in Australia, the French brand has no intention on pulling the plug on this market.

Dealers in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne sought as Citroen looks to transform brand

1 Feb 2013

NEW Citroen distributor Sime Darby is working to quickly plug gaps in its dealer network on the east coast of Australia as it finalises a new retail strategy that it believes will transform the French brand in this country.

Newly appointed Citroen Automobiles Australia general manager John Startari would not be drawn on details of the new strategy, but confirmed to GoAuto that it would be “more customer focused”, require more investment from dealers and involve a push upmarket with the marketing focus zeroing in on the premium DS model line, which he considers to be a key selling point for the brand.

There are currently 20 Citroen dealers, two newly appointed that have replaced those who decided not to remain with the franchise under Sime Darby, and all have been placed on an interim 180-day agreement to enable both the company and its retailers to consider their future before a longer-term agreement is struck.

“We’re looking to implement a different strategy for Citroen and it’s important they’re given the opportunity to see that, and see if they want to be part of that going forward,” Mr Startari said.

“And obviously they’ve got to be the right ‘cultural’ fit for that strategy.”

Mr Startari identified several “open points” in terms of dealer representation that required filling as soon as possible, including a second dealer in Brisbane and two more each in Melbourne and Sydney.

“Obviously the focus is where the volume is, and Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane are where we need to plug gaps very quickly,” he said.

“Thirty (dealers) is where we want to be, and that gives us adequate coverage in terms of sales potential and service points, which is important for us because we really want to make this a customer-focused brand now.”

In terms of extra investment being required by dealers, Mr Startari said he recognised it was a two-way street with dealers in meeting minimum standards and also seeing a long-term and profitable future with the brand.

He also said he understood that sub-2000-unit sales volumes since the global financial crisis hit had made it difficult for dealers to want to invest in the brand and stimulate growth from the showroom floor.

“Obviously there are brand standards and some dealers are complying with those while others are sitting on the fence,” he said. “And it’s important that they see a future, too, as there’s got to be a viable return for them.

“We’re going to present our plan for the future to them, and show them that what we’re demanding is not out of scope and unreasonable, and they’ve got to make a decision from there whether they believe we’re able to achieve it and whether the brand’s capable of achieving that.”

Existing Peugeot dealers are obvious targets to take on the Citroen brand given commonalities in areas such as parts and servicing, but Mr Startari said the decision on new retail outlets would come down to being “the right fit”.

“Obviously there is a relationship there (with Peugeot) and if they are in a position to be able to accommodate Citroen, it makes sense because there are economies of scale with the technical sharing in terms of engines and transmissions, and so on,” he said.

“There is an economy of scale for that dealer to take on the franchise, but they are not being offered exclusive rights just because they are a Peugeot dealer.

“If it makes sense, they’ll be offered a Citroen franchise, but otherwise the best fit for that area will be sought.”

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