Positive Citroen future offsets American CJD struggle
Newly appointed Citroen distributor Sime Darby Automobiles has ambitious plans for the French brand while struggling to hang on to its biggest-selling American badges.
Four hundred sales in 2013 for a market share of 0.5 percent might not sound like much, but it represents a 40% increase over Citroen’s 2012 figures under previous importer Ateco Automotive.
Further growth is forecast for 2014, up to 500 units.
Sime Darby has taken over Citroen under a global plan by Peugeot-Citroen (PSA) to bring its brands together under common distributorships. Sime Darby already imports Peugeot and has also held the American Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge (CJD) brands since 2009.
The Sime Darby Citroen plan is four-fold: more dealers (up from five to nine), a new corporate communications strategy, rationalisation of the model ranges and realignment of pricing.
“We have big aspirations for Citroen: we want to replicate the success we have had with Peugeot and CJD,” Sime Darby Automobiles general manager Grant Smith says.
“Last year we sold 1012 Peugeots and 1450 Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge models – a record for CJD in New Zealand, higher even than when it was a factory subsidiary.”
While a firm course is set for Citroen and Peugeot, the same cannot be said of CJD. Mr Smith speaks proudly of the growth his company has achieved for the American brands, but behind the scenes Sime Darby has been fighting a losing battle to keep its biggest-selling franchise in the family.
In May last year, factory-owned Chrysler Australia (CA) took over distribution of Fiat and Alfa Romeo from independent operator Ateco Automotive – another case of head office bringing its brands under one roof (Fiat owns a 58.5 percent stake in Chrysler).
However, the change applied to Australia only at that time. CA has not had a presence in New Zealand since 2009, which left open the issue of how the Chrysler and Fiat/Alfa brands would be united in this country.
Mr Smith got the ball rolling mid-2012 by submitting a business plan to CA for Sime Darby to take over the Italian brands from Ateco. He has continued to work closely with CA on future plans for CJD.
Seven months on, nothing has changed. Ateco has retained caretaker status of Fiat and Alfa Romeo in New Zealand and there has been no announcement from CA on the future of CJD in New Zealand. It remains with Sime Darby, in excellent health. But for how long?
Mr Smith says the handover of Citroen from Ateco to Sime Darby this month was unconnected with the future of Fiat/Alfa, despite Ateco’s involvement with both the French and Italian brands.
“This is simply part of a strategy from the [Citroen] factory to improve market share in New Zealand and we are delighted to assist.”
Mr Smith is not discussing the status of the CJD distributorship in New Zealand at this time. “Absolutely no comment,” he says.
A new company named Fiat Chrysler New Zealand was registered in January 2013. Its two directors are Neville Crichton, founder/owner of Ateco, and Clyde Campbell, managing director of Chrysler Australia.