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Former Mini boss takes on Sime Darby role

European flavour: Former Mini Australia GM Kai Bruesewitz said he is excited to be taking the reins at Sime Darby Motors.

Kai Bruesewitz announced as Sime Darby’s Peugeot, Citroen DS chief

23 Feb 2016

SIME Darby Motors has announced that former Mini Australia boss Kai Bruesewitz will take on the role of general manager of the Peugeot, Citroen and DS brands in Australia.

The surprise appointment comes after a protracted recruitment process following the departure of John Startari in October last year who resigned to concentrate on his own automotive consulting business.

Mr Bruesewitz took the reins of Mini Australia in January 2012, overseeing sales growth of about 50 per cent as the niche BMW-owned British brand recorded 3342 units in 2015 – the first time it had passed the 3000 sales mark.

Speaking about his appointment as general manager of Sime Darby’s French brands, Mr Bruesewitz said there was opportunity to leverage the history of the three marques and push for further sales growth in Australia.

“Since moving to Australia in 2012, I’ve come to understand one of the most competitive and dynamic markets in the world and I’m very excited to join both Sime Darby and the PSA stable at such a formative time,” he said.

“With such a rich history in Australia, Peugeot, Citroen and DS have a real opportunity to rekindle the passion and excitement of the brands, and with vehicles such as the Peugeot 308 GTi, Citroen Cactus, plus the rollout of the DS brand, there are exciting times ahead.”

Sime Darby Motors Australia and New Zealand managing director Pat McKenna said Mr Bruesewitz was joining the company at an exciting time.

“Kai’s experience across Australasian and international markets, along with his business acumen and marketing expertise, will be critical as the PSA stable of brands embark on the next phase of growth – supported by new products,” he said.

“Kai joins us at a time of product renewal and greater collaboration between our Australian and New Zealand operations we are very excited about his appointment to the position.”

As previously reported, Mr Bruesewitz was set to head back to his native Germany following his departure from Mini to take on a new role within the BMW Group. However, GoAuto understands that his fondness for Australia was a key factor behind the subsequent decision to remain here with his family rather than head back to Europe.

Mr Bruesewitz started his career with the BMW Group in Germany through a trainee program in 1999, subsequently holding a number of Mini and BMW area manager positions around Europe and in Australia.

From 2002 to 2006, Mr Bruesewitz was the Mini area manager for Northern Germany, before being appointed BMW’s area manager in south-west Germany until late 2008 when he took on more responsibility as the BMW and Mini area sales manager role for Europe.

Mr Bruesewitz faces some challenges in his new role heading up the three French brands in Australia, notably the transition of DS from being a line of cars under the Citroen banner to a premium brand in its own right.

PSA Peugeot Citroen announced its plan in 2013 to split the DS brand off and reposition it as the company’s top-tier brand, leaving Peugeot as its mid-level offering and Citroen as the entry point.

Former Sime Darby general manager John Startari told GoAuto that the split will take time in Australia, with DS having its own corner of Citroen dealerships in the short to medium term, rather than following the strategy used in China where there are separate DS dealerships.

Peugeot sales were down nine per cent last year, with the brand posting exactly 4000 new registrations according to VFACTS figures, while Citroen’s 1106 sales represented a 15.4 per cent decline over 2014.

Mr Startari last year predicted double-digit growth for Citroen in Australia on the back of new product such as the Grand C4 Picasso people-mover that arrived in early 2014, and the unique C4 Cactus crossover that lobs in Australia next month.

For the Peugeot brand, it hit a high in 2007, with more than 8000 sales, and while last year’s haul was half that number, executives have predicted more growth thanks to an increased dealer footprint, driveaway pricing on some models and renewed product lines, including the well-received 308 range that is easily the brand’s best seller.

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