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Peugeot, Citroen on the way up

Grand champ: Citroen’s Grand C4 Picasso has helped boost the French brand’s local sales, and there are more new models on the way.

Slow and steady for Citroen and Peugeot under Sime Darby distributorship

26 Jan 2015

PEUGEOT and Citroen's local distributor Sime Darby Motor Group Australia is banking on a continued roll-out of attractive new models and customer loyalty to drive its growth, but don't expect record sales anytime soon.

While Peugeot sales remained steady in 2014 with a 0.4 per cent dip to 4394 – just 19 units behind 2013’s total – its sister brand under the PSA banner Citroen grew by 10.8 per cent last year locally to 1307 units, on the back of strong sales for its Berlingo light-commercial van and the well-received Grand C4 Picasso people-mover.

Last year’s growth may be encouraging for the brand’s local importer, but it is still well off its best overall sales result in the past decade of 3803 back in 2007 at the beginning of the global financial crisis.

General manager of Peugeot and Citroen in Australia John Startari told GoAuto that the importer is taking a sustained approach to the growth of both French brands here, and highlighted the 'steady as she goes' strategy to lifting Citroen’s sales Down Under.

“We are about sustainable growth,” he said. “I purposefully don't talk about ambitious numbers and the like. We will grow but it has got to be sustainable growth. We are not a flash in the pan. We want to foster our existing client base and work with them and then grow into new segments as the product arrives.

It's imperative that we maintain our current loyal customers while growing.

“It's [Citroen’s] not a mass market brand in Australia, it has a niche following, but as new products are introduced, I think you will see that organic growth.” This new product includes the five-seat C4 Picasso tallboy hatch – arriving next month – that has proven to be a sales success in its European home market, as well as the offbeat C4 Cactus crossover later in the year.

Mr Startari highlighted the success of the new-generation seven-seat Grand C4 Picasso family hauler that launched in early 2014, with 244 finding homes last year, representing a 300 per cent jump over 2013.

“Everyone that comes in contact with that vehicle is delighted. Finally there is a people-mover in the market that doesn't scream ‘my life is over’. It's a great looking car and drives like a car and has technology that appeals to the drivers as well as the occupants.” He added that there would be no mainstream television promotion for the Citroen brand in Australia, as the importer has chosen to target online advertising.

Mr Startari reaffirmed Sime Darby’s commitment to follow the global strategy of separating out the Citroen and DS brands, but added that it would not happen immediately in Australia.

“In markets like Australia, ultimately the plan is to get to that type of strategy but you can’t move until its economically viable to do so, so we will move to that strategy in time, but at a point in time where it's economically viable.

“And to do that in this country we do need an expansion of the product range and significant investment into the brand.”

Mr Startari said the recently launched 308 hatch and wagon range will bring a boost in Peugeot sales, but conceded it was unlikely that it will crack 5000 units in 2015.

“I don't think 2015 will yield greater than 5000. And that is going to be determined by a lot of factors, including supply. With the success of 2008 and 308 and 3008 globally, supply is going to play a factor in that.

The critically acclaimed 308 saw a 60.6 increase in sales in 2014 with 967 units shifted compared with 602 in 2013. More variants of the Volkswagen Golf rival are expected to arrive in local showrooms late next month, including the GT and 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol powered versions. The facelifted 508 large sedan and wagon range will go on sale the following month.

The Mitsubishi ASX-based 4008 was the car-maker’s biggest seller in Australia last year with 1240 units, while the 208-based 2008 baby crossover added volume of 488 units to its 2014 overall total.

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