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by Daniel DeGasperi

New Citroen importer Sime Darby has targeted a 35 per cent sales increase in Australian sales in 2013.

The forecast comes as Sime Darby – also the official importer of Peugeot – officially takes management of Citroen from previous importer Ateco Automotive, correlating with a revised product line-up and new pricing and specifications for the French brand.

Citroen Australia general manager and director John Statari outlined the importer’s strategy and goals for the brand in a press conference today.

Shared services between Citroen and Peugeot in Australia will include public relations and communications, aftersales, logistics, customer relations, dealer develoment, IT, corporate sales and coporate governance departments. Sales, marketing, finance and product teams, however, will work individually between each brand to ensure product and brand strategies remain mutually exclusive.

Key objectives for the relaunch of Citroen, according to Sime Darby, include the need to “re-build confidence in the Citroen brand for the customer, the dealers and the public”.

The aim is to increase sales by 35 per cent in Australia in 2013, with a further 20 per cent growth during both 2014 and 2015.

Last year, Citroen recorded 1702 sales, up 20 per cent on the previous year, which means that the brand is expected to near-double sales within three years to 3309 units. This would, however, still only take Citroen close to the heights the 3800 units the brand achieved in 2007, and the 3500 cars sold in 2006.

The volume boost is expected to follow the expansion of the Citroen dealer and servicing network. Currently there are 23 dealers nationwide, eight of which also sell Peugeot. That number is expected to climb to 30 this year, and 37 next year.

Citroen International Operations Director, Yves Moulin, confessed that he has to “recognise that we are small [in Australia] … but even if we are small we have great ambition. We are re-building the awareness of the Citroen brand in Australia … we are rebuilding the range and the strategy of the range … with a simplified range”.

Sime Darby cites increases in consumer confidence, subsiding global economic turmoil, low inflation and employment, low interest rates, and a high Australian dollar as the market conditions that will help feed growth. It does, however, cite the record number of competing manufacturers and possible disruption of consumer activity around the September federal election as potential road-blocks to growth this year.

Initial re-launch tactics will include a clearing of “residual stock” at dealers, followed by a full line of new stock shipments in March and April. A price-leader campaign will be built around the now-$17,990 C3 and $19,990 C4, while Citroen will continue to push the more premium end of the range with the C4 Aircross, DS4 and DS5, and the launch of the DS3 CC (below).

Sime Darby is keen to “avoid unnecessary conflict” between the Citroen and Peugeot brands, claiming that “careful consideration and planning has been underaken … looking at the needs of Citroen customers versus Peugeot customers.”

Citroen DS3 Cabrio - 3

While it acknowledges that several products are shared – Berlingo and Partner, Aircross and 4008, C4 and 308, C5 and 508 – the claim is that there are “significant points of difference in specifcation and price that we believe will resonate with their traditonal customers while appealing to new customers”.

Customer communications is set to expand, with all customers to be contacted post-sale, and again after 12, 24 and 36 months. Use of social media, new model launch activity including DS3 CC in the third quarter of 2013, in addition to sponsorships and corporate events, will be implemented.

International operations director Moulin confessed that the relationship between Citroen in France, and previous-importer Ateco was “tough” particularly in the final year of their partnership. Despite the recent successes of Kia and Hyundai with a company-led distributor program, Moulin says Citroen wants to focus on building impressive cars, and not necessarily spending money on being its own distributor. He also believed that an independent importer like Sime Darby could react quicker to changes in the market due to their local product knowledge, and be more open in their relationship with head office.




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