Citroen here for the long haul in Australia

Ambitious five-year product, marketing plans show Citroen’s commitment to Australia

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CITROEN is a mainstream player in Europe with strong sales going back decades but has long struggled for traction in Australia, where despite having sold just 204 units to the end of September this year, it remains a committed player with “ambitious” plans for the next half-decade.

To gain a better appreciation of Citroen’s sales result so far this year, a single medium-sized car dealership representing a mainstream volume brand would expect to have sold at least this number of new vehicles in the same timeframe.

But Citroen is upbeat about its future both here and internationally, with Peugeot Citroen Australia managing director Kate Gillis pointing to a big future for the brand, a sentiment shared by global Citroen CEO Vincent Cobee.

At the recent Australian launch of the new Citroen C5 X, Ms Gillis said Citroen’s range will continue to grow, with its first plug-in hybrid (PHEV) here soon and likely first battery electric (BEV) offerings to follow.

Prime candidates for the shift to electrification include a PHEV variant of the C5 Aircross medium SUV and a BEV version of Citroen’s best-seller in Australia, the C4 small SUV, called eC4.

When GoAuto asked about a timeframe to Citroen’s first locally delivered BEV, Ms Gillis said:  “There’s probably a bit of hesitancy around going full EV and PHEV does provide an alternative but also so does the petrol engine right now.

“What that looks like in a couple of years’ time is going to be part of the customer’s journey.”

In an effort to get the brand in front of more buyers, Citroen Australia (and sister brand Peugeot) are embarking on a targeted marketing campaign with an increased budget going into next year that will include event sponsorships.

“You’ll find particularly as we get into next year, Citroen will have more of a presence, there will be more investment from both Peugeot and Citroen. We will be precisely earmarking the audience that we’re after, and we will have some new models to talk about.” said Ms Gillis.

Citroen will not share its volume targets for Australia but Ms Gillis said that although she was open to expanding the brand’s small dealer network, there was no intention of becoming a mass-market marque.

“We won’t be chasing volume at all costs but will take inspiration from other smaller, premium brands in the market, including Volvo,” she revealed.

“I think we can categorically say we are committed to the Australian market. And it’s not something that we’re just saying, we’re showing that by the product that we’re bringing to the market.

“We do have a quite ambitious five-year plan, but again that doesn’t mean that we’re going to really aim for the top 10; what we do have is a model that is sustainable for our dealer network, and for us to be able to bring it to the market.

At the moment, there are 10 Citroen dealerships nationally with a total of 36 service providers throughout the country.

“We get interest from prospective new dealers all the time if I’m honest with you, but we also need to look at in terms of what does that mean for the brand itself,” said Ms Gillis.

“And we work very closely with our dealer network, having them being successful is our success. We also need to make sure that we’ve got the right levels of volume moving forward to make their business successful.

“We have an ambitious five-year plan for Australia and we are always talking to interested parties with a view to expanding our dealer network.”

Ms Gillis could not tell GoAuto how many Citroens were in the Australian car parc but registration figures in just New South Wales and Victoria suggest there are thousands of vehicles of various denominations still running around bearing the double-chevron logo.

In explaining Citroen’s low sales volume, she said the company has an order bank due to constrained availability and that the numbers do not take into account any of the pre-sales on C5 X.

“We’re quite comfortable with the performance so far year-to-date,” she said.

Mr Cobee said recently that the company had adopted a credo of ‘everything old is new again’ as they recalibrate to accommodate a world moving inexorably to EVs.

He outlined the brand’s long-term plans and much is centred on electric small and microcars made at an affordable price vehicles like the Oli and Ami Quadricycle.

These and other proposed Citroens have similarities to older designs like the Citroen 2CV and C2.

Mr Cobee outlined the French brand’s target as “to build affordable, sustainable electric cars that exude freedom”.

He said a series of crises that have rocked the automotive industry in recent years represent an opportunity for the 100-year-old French brand “to be extremely relevant again”.

With the Ami electric quadricycle and the new Oli concept, Citroen is seeking to offer a pathway to affordable, responsible and fun electric mobility.

Asked what the rationale behind Citroen’s new direction was Mr Cobee said: “At Citroen, we want to be accessible, we want to support well-being, and we want to be audacious. When you do a concept, you are not only trying to make a statement, or place a flag, but you also want to show a way to get to the flag”.

“We are in a place where freedom of mobility is important – COVID-19 was proof of that – where economic tensions will increase and where the energy transition is a reality. We have only one planet and resources are constrained.

“So, we put that on the table and said, ‘let’s not solve every problem’. With Oli, we are not intending to make an emphatic statement on aerodynamics or on future body types. We want to make a statement on affordable, responsible electric cars that exude freedom.”

Mr Cobee said Citroen chose a utilitarian design for the Oli rather than a sportscar or a sleek design because “life is not made of grey pods that are moving anonymously in the city; and Citroen is not a sportscar brand”.

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