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Peugeot considers rally attack

Marketing attack: New Peugeot boss Chris Downie is keen on an Australian rally programme.

Hot hatches in the forests and diesels in the suburbs are all part of Peugeot's future plans

12 Mar 2001

AN Australian rally championship program and promoting diesel-powered cars to urban buyers could form vital planks in the growth plans of Peugeot in Australia.

Peugeot Concessionaires Australia general manager Chris Downie has nominated these two contrasting marketing strategies as ways to support his ambitious sales climb, from last year's tally of 2712 to more than 8500 in 2007.

To support such dramatic ambitions, Mr Downie also has plans to expand the Peugeot line-up Down Under and revamp and grow the dealer network.

Mr Downie heads up a virtually all-new management team at Peugeot which has been installed since Trevor Amery took over as managing director of Inchcape Motors in 2000.

In the short term, Mr Downie has predicted a growth in sales to 3500 in 2001, thanks to the arrival of the 607 prestige contender, the 206 CC steel-roofed convertible and the new-generation 307 replacement for the 306 late in the year.

However, he has also been to the factory and put his hand up for the 107 light car and 807 people-mover due in 2003/2004 as well as a range of light commercial vehicles. The 407, which will replace the 406, is expected around 2004.

Mr Downie said Inchcape was committed to the Peugeot distributorship in the long haul, despite rumours that Astre Automotive - and possibly others - were interested in the franchise.

"There are a lot of us who have come into this brand and if we fail we are going to ruin our reputations and we are going to ruin our livelihoods," he said. "We are committed to making Peugeot successful." Mr Downie confirmed an Australian Rally Championship program in 2002 was being considered as a way to promote Peugeot's hot-hatch contenders - the 206 GTi and imminent 307 GTi.

Mr Downie also confirmed his request for a 2001-spec 206 WRC, as campaigned by the current world champion Marcus Gronholm.

"We have talked to the factory about a program," he said. "It would not be cheap as a car costs around $750,000." Mr Downie also said he wanted to exploit Peugeot's reputation for making the best diesel engines in Europe.

His marketing ambitions will be boosted by the introduction of an automatic variant of the 406 Hdi mid-year and the 307 will eventually be offered in Hdi form.

"We believe metropolitan consumers may consider it (diesel)," Mr Downie said. "People who commute significant distances and have a substantial petrol bill may wish to consider it.

"Diesel is something that's very strong for the brand and it's something that hasn't been exploited in the metropolitan markets." The first evidence of dealer changes will come when Peugeot's revamped Sydney line-up is revealed on March 16.

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