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Peugeot reconsidering LCV plans

Top seller: The Berlingo van was Citroen’s best-selling vehicle in Australia last year, with 280 units shifted.

Sime Darby looks at light commercial brand switch as Peugeot van sales plummet

23 Jan 2015

PEUGEOT’S light-commercial vehicle line-up could be scaled back, with local distributor Sime Darby Motor Group Australia investigating the possibility of shifting the focus in the segment to sister company Citroen.

The French car-maker’s Australian LCV range consists of the slow-selling Partner light van and the larger Expert, which both compete in segments that are growing year on year.

The ageing Expert shares its underpinnings with the Fiat Scudo and the European market Citroen Jumpy/Dispatch, thanks to a long-standing joint venture between PSA and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Last year Peugeot sold just 62 Experts, which actually represented a 21.6 per cent jump over the previous year’s result of 51 vans, but was miles off the pace of everything else in the segment that recorded a total of 15,890 sales in 2014.

The Partner had an even worse year than its larger sibling, suffering a 76 per cent slide last year for 29 sales, while its Citroen-badged twin the Berlingo recorded a 57.3 per cent increase for sales of 280 units.

Peugeot Automobiles Australia and Citroen Australia general manager John Startari admitted to GoAuto that Peugeot’s LCV sales had “pulled right back”, and added that a boost in private sales for the brand has had an impact on fleet purchases.

“That’s something we need to really look at,” he said. “It’s very price sensitive. It’s not a retail vehicle (LCV range). Our network, with where it is at the moment, is very retail-focused. And you will probably see results from last year, although Peugeot was quite steady, it was a 34 per cent increase in private sales at the expense of fleet.

“That was a strategy we employed to try and get a focus back on the retail customer and that is a focus on the passenger car range.

“It has worked and profitability is key to us and a strong dealer network is one that is engaged.”

Mr Startari stopped short of confirming that the Partner and Expert would be discontinued in Australia, but hinted that Citroen could become the brand for French LCVs in the future.

“There is a minimal presence at the moment while we finalise the strategy surrounding that.

“Bearing in mind that … Berlingo is doing very well and a central part. And for every Peugeot commercial vehicle there is a Citroen equivalent.” Mr Startari said a lot of work had to be done before Sime Darby would consider an expansion of Citroen’s LCV line-up.

“Honestly it’s too early to say that, there are a lot of things to consider.

When you start going into larger vans, there is ability-to-service issues.

Workshops need special equipment.

“Anyone can sell the vehicles, it’s a matter of looking after them in the market and that takes infrastructure and planning and we don’t want to just push them out there and then worry about that later. It’s important that we cover every facet of the lifecycle and that’s what we are working on at the moment.”

The Berlingo was Citroen’s best-selling model last year in Australia, but it is still a distant fourth in the segment behind the dominant Volkswagen Caddy that recorded 1855 sales last year, as well as the resurgent Renault Kangoo (664) and the Suzuki APV (487).

The Berlingo could get a further boost following the introduction of a fuel-sipping automated manual version of the diesel variant in December – the same month Fiat lobbed its Doblo rival.

Mr Startari said the Berlingo has been a winner for Citroen in Australia thanks to the van’s loyal buyers.

“It has a great following and a very loyal base, which is rare for a fleet, in that with small business it’s all about the price, there is no brand loyalty.

The reliability of that car has proven over a long period and we have repeat business there, which is great.”

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