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We’re here to stay, niche sellers say

Staying: Niche brand Infiniti is here for the long haul, even if fellow newcomer Opel isn't.

Slow-selling brands commit to Australia in wake of Opel’s shock pull-out

General News logo5 Aug 2013

NICHE car brands have rushed to distance themselves from Opel’s shock announcement last week that it would stop selling cars in Australia.

French car-maker Citroen, Korean brand SsangYong, city car specialist Smart, Malaysian brand Proton and even the newest car brand in Australia – luxury marque Infiniti – say they are all here for the long haul.

Citroen has sold fewer than 600 cars in the first six months of the year, however, the French brand’s Australian general manager John Startari, said the car-maker was still going through a transformation.

“We don’t want to comment on Opel, but from our point of view we’re on target in terms of our plans,” Mr Startari said.

“There was a transition period after the changeover (from Ateco Automotive to Syme Darby as Australian distributor for the Citroen brand earlier this year) and our business plans are essentially from July 1.

“We hit our target last month (June) and we’re on track to achieve our results at the end of the year,” he said.

“We only took over (the Citroen distributorship) in February and we instituted what we consider a clean-up of stock, and we’re continuing with our formal re-launch from July 1.”

Niche luxury brand Infiniti arrived in Australia late last year, and sales so far have just broken the 150 barrier.

“Infiniti’s plans in Australia are well advanced and progressing as expected,” Peter Fadeyev, the general manager of corporate communications for Nissan’s luxury brand said.

“Infiniti has made numerous major investments and careful strategic choices to secure long-term success in the Australian new-vehicle market, including an array of forthcoming new models and a network of strong retail partners, expansions plans for which are already under way,” Mr Fadeyev said.

“Infiniti is fully committed to the Australian luxury car market for the long term.”

Ssangyong spokesman Daniel Cotterill said the Korean car-maker’s sales were not where the company wanted them to be, but it was here for the long haul.

It has sold fewer than 800 cars so far this year after the brand’s distribution was taken over by Ateco Automotive late last year.

“Sales are not where we would like them to be, or where it needs to be, and since we (Ateco Automotive) have had it in the last year we’ve tried very hard with a number of different changes to both the dealer network, to the offerings and the price,” Mr Cotterill said.

“At this stage, we are very much focussed on persisting and making that work.

“It’s a tough market (in Australia),” he said.

Mercedes-Benz city car offshoot Smart has pegged fewer than 100 sales so far this year, according to VFACTS data.

Asked if Smart would continue to have a foothold in Australia despite its lack of popularity with mainstream car buyers, brand senior manager of corporate communications David McCarthy said it would.

“Yes, absolutely,” Mr McCarthy told GoAuto when asked. “The ability to buy a Smart online has been a significant success for us with more than 20 sold since we launched the online sales platform,” he said.

Smart is the first car brand in Australia to sell its cars online, allowing customers to order and even option up and pay for vehicles without ever setting foot in a showroom.

Malaysian car brand Proton has sold fewer than 350 cars in Australia to the end of June this year.

Kaye Amies, the chief operating officer of Proton Cars Australia, said it was here for the long haul.

"While the market is more competitive than ever, Proton has been a part of the Australian Automotive landscape since 1995,” Ms Amies said.

“With the recent launch of the Preve (small sedan) and more new models in the coming months, like the seven-seat Exora and an all new hatch, we are looking forward to a successful future here in Australia," she said.

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