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Customer service the key for Peugeot, Citroen

Growing: Citroen's Australian dealer network is expanding, but local boss John Startari says growth will be in “strategic” locations only.

Sime Darby creates new roles for customer service and fleet management

26 Jan 2015

AUSTRALIAN Peugeot and Citroen distributor Sime Darby Motor Group is bolstering its ranks with newly created roles that will focus on customer service and the fleet sector as it looks to improve the brand's overall buying experience.

Sime Darby took over distributorship of Citroen in Australia in early 2013 from Ateco Automotive, bringing it into the fold alongside fellow PSA brand Peugeot that it had imported since 2001.

Speaking exclusively with GoAuto, general manager of Citroen and Peugeot Australia John Startari said the integration of the two brands under the Sime Darby banner has been a success, and praised the work of the Sydney-based team.

“I think we are now in the period where we will start to see the results of that consolidation,” he said. “There are a lot of efficiencies that have been gained. Obviously having two brands coming together, there is always jostling for position and it's come together really well.

“We have got a really united team who obviously look out for each other. I am very pleased with that and I think you will start to see the results of that in coming quarters.”

Mr Startari – the former managing director of Proton Cars Australia – said the importer's focus in the past 12 to 24 months has been on ensuring its dealer network is profitable as well as a renewed focus on private buyers.

“Last year we tried to focus on getting back to our roots and getting back into the private market. I didn’t want the sales boost just through … fleet. It was imperative that we got our dealers back on track in terms of throughput, that's key.

“That's not about them taking the profit to the bank, it's about them having the ability to invest in the customer experience. And that does take time and we are coming to a period where we can start to see the fruits of the labour of the last 12 months.”

 center imageLeft: Sime Darby general manager John Startari.Mr Startari said that the distributor is pouring resources into boosting the customer experience in a bid to ensure buyers stick with the brand beyond the initial purchase.

“A demonstration of that, we created a new position – customer experience manager. We have an in-house call centre and that really is going to take care of the whole life-cycle and that is from pre-purchase or prospect through to re-purchase with the trigger points along the way.

“Looking at the car industry I think it lags a lot of other industries. Finding the right person for that role was difficult because there were very few people in the car industry with the experience required. You tend to have to pull from other industries, but we are quite excited about that because I think that is going to be the differentiator of the future.”

The customer experience manager will also be responsible for staying in touch with buyers and updates to delivery dates - a task previously handled by dealership staff.

Mr Startari confirmed that Sime Darby had made a number of other key appointments, including a new product planner and a dedicated fleet manager as it looks to return to the fleet market in the coming months.

The Peugeot dealer network includes 38 sites across the country, while there are 24 Citroen retail outlets and a further five service centres.

Mr Startari said the importer was in the process of “appointing strategic dealership sites” for Citroen in Melbourne, Sydney and Far North Queensland, but he declined to detail exact locations. The brand has just returned to Newcastle after a seven year absence, while another new addition is the Macarthur site in Sydney's south-west.

He added that an expansion of the Citroen dealer network would be limited to just a few new sites to match the brand's sales volume.

“It's imperative that the growth matches the volume growth. To just appoint dealers willy nilly will dilute your throughput and what you don’t want is selling the same amount of cars through twice as many dealers. That will un-do everything we stand for.

“They [dealers] are extremely happy and I think that is reflected in the dealer satisfaction surveys. Citroen has moved ahead in leaps and bounds and the shift is quite noticeable in 12 months.”

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