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Citroen to reinvent itself in 2011

New wave: Citroen's DS3 prestige small car is set to lead Citroen to a new era in Australia.

Fringe-dwelling French brand aims to lift sales by 50 per cent with new Citroens

Citroen logo7 Sep 2010

CITROEN admits the absence of key models will make reaching its sales target of just 2000 vehicles this year in Australia “a push”, but plans to leverage a raft of new models and a new corporate identity to boost sales by 50 per cent to 3000 in 2011.

The all-new three-door DS3 premium hatch, which officially goes on sale on September 18 but will be limited to just 35 sales a month, will be the first in a wave of vital new models for the boutique French brand, which will also launch the redesigned C3 five-door upon which it is based in Australia by late November.

Unlimited supplies of the new C3 won’t be available here until February, and Citroen Australia is planning to sell just 50 a month next year, with increased competition in the light-car segment expected to make the new C3 even more of a niche vehicle than the model that was discontinued here months ago.

Citroen’s redesigned C4 will go on sale here in mid-2011, followed later next year by the all-new DS4, which make its production debut at the Paris motor show on September 30 as a slightly higher-riding premium wagon version of the small C4 hatch, the current version of which remains available here only in mainstream variant guises.

A replacement for Citroen’s volume-selling C5 medium sedan and wagon line-up will emerge in 2012, the same year the third additional model to wear the historic French brand’s lauded DS nameplate – the DS5 – will be revealed.

Citroen’s redesigned C1 city-car is not expected to enter Australia’s cut-throat light-car market despite Peugeot’s intention to sell the all-new 108 here, while Citroen’s special-order-only flagship – the C6 sedan that has attracted just five customers this year – should soldier on until it is replaced by a model that could already have been previewed by the gigantic Metropolis limousine concept earlier this year To support the procession of fresh, more upscale models, Citroen Australia last week revealed a new, more premium corporate identity (CI) to its national dealer network – which will continue to number 26 dealerships for the foreseeable future – that will be rolled out across the nation by the end of next year.

33 center imageFrom top: Citroen C3, Citroen C4, Citroen DS4 and Citroen C5.

The new CI, which will comprise Citroen’s latest double-chevron logo and should cost each dealer around $25,000 to roll out, aims to bring a new standard of presentation, signage, service and customer satisfaction for Citroen in Australia.

Also bringing Australia into line with Citroen’s new global advertising strategy is a new television commercial to promote the cheaper C5 line-up, which goes to air from this week.

The 91-year-old French brand, which could clinch its seventh straight World Rally Championship title in japan this weekend, was the first mass-production car-maker outside North America and was once Europe’s most popular vehicle brand, but enjoys a considerably lower profile in Australia, where it is the oldest automotive brand to be continuously on sale.

Along with Volkswagen, Citroen was one of the pioneering brands in China, where it sold 160,000 of the 1.3 million vehicles it produced last year, while 100,000 Citroens were also sold in 2009 in Germany, Europe’s largest single market.

“We can’t claim the same success in Australia due to problems with supply,” admits Citroen Australia general manager Miles Williams. “We know we’ve had an awareness issue. The C4 has been our entry-level model for some time now … business has been quite hard.”

Nonetheless, Mr Williams said he was encouraged by recent market research that showed 97 per cent of Citroen customers would recommend a Citroen to others and that 95 per cent would buy another Citroen.

Citroen says the DS3 is much more than a new individual model because it will target luxury-car downsizers, the environmentally conscious, urban drivers facing traffic and parking problems, niche/style-driven buyers and small-car upgraders to take Citroen to a whole new level.

“We believe we are ideally positioned for all those customer types to be attracted to the DS3,” said Citroen Australia spokesman Edward Rowe. “Previously, the only way to get a more luxurious (Citroen) car was to buy a larger, more expensive model.”

The DS3 is claimed to represent a new ‘anti-retro’ movement because it looks like no previous model or any other Citroen, despite the fact it borrows its nameplate from Citroen’s lauded 1995 model, the DS – which in this case is said to stand for “dynamic style”.

Citroen says rivals for the DS3 – which will form the basis of Citroen’s WRC contender in 2011 – include everything from the Fiat 500 and VW Beetle to the Mini hatch and wagon, the Alfa Romeo MiTo, Audi’s upcoming A1 and the BMW 1 Series.

Mr Williams said the 149kW ‘DS3 Racing’ model remained on Citroen Australia’s wish list and that diesel versions were not yet on the local agenda, but did not rule out a new entry-level DS3 variant for Australia, powered by a 70kW 1.4-litre petrol engine that returns CO2 emissions of just 99h/km and would cost less than $30,000 here.

“We would love to have the DS3 Racing,” he said. “It could come here in future but at the moment it is not available to us, though that’s not for want of asking.”

Mr Williams said that customers could wait up to three months for specific combinations of the DS3’s seven metallic exterior paint colours, two solid paint colours, three wheel colours and three roof colours.

Citroen Australia expects the entry-level 88kW ‘DStyle’ version, matched exclusively with a four-speed automatic transmission for $32,990, to account for 240 sales in 2011, with the flagship 115kW turbocharged DSport model to find 180 buyers next year after attracting the strongest initial interest.

On top of the 420 DS3s it hopes to sell in 2011, Citroen expects to shift 800 C4s, 500 C3s, 500 C5s and 420 light commercial vehicles, including the Berlingo and Dispatch.

Compared to 2009, when Citroen suffered a 40 per cent sales plunge to just 1600 vehicles, Citroen sales are down 8.3 per cent to August this year.

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