New distributor Sime Darby aims to up sales in 2013

Sime Darby was determined to make a splash when it took over distribution of the Citroen range in New Zealand - literally.

To promote addition of the French brand alongside its Peugeot fleet, the company put two Citroens in the water feature at Auckland's Sofitel hotel.

The DS3 and DS5 models were maneuvered into the pond in the hotel's atrium on floating platforms and will be on display for the next few weeks as part of Sime Darby's promotion of the brand.

The company took over on February 1 from Ateco, which sold nearly 250 Citroens in New Zealand last year - a number Sime Darby hopes to up by 40 per cent this year.


To do so, it is culling the number of Citroen models available here, reducing the price of the cars by as much as $8000, adding more dealerships nationwide and has guaranteed support from head office in France, PSA Group.

At the official function in Auckland last week, PSA Group's vice-president of international operations Yves Moulin told the media that his company was to blame for Citroen's underperformance here.

"It's our fault we are weak here ... we are ready to invest so we can show we have trust in the future of Citroen here," said Moulin.

Sime Darby aims to sell 400 Citroen this year and 500 in 2014 - that is nearly half the number of sales its sister company Peugeot has in New Zealand now.

The key to bump up Citroen sales will be in the popular hatchback and compact SUV segments. The base model C3 hatchback is priced from $23,490 for the 1.2-litre and the 1.6-litre model sits at $25,990 - and with a discount of $2000.

The Citroen Aircross (similar to Mitsubishi's ASX and Peugeot's 408) is also expected to be a big seller. Priced from $36,990, the compact SUV will be a popular with buyers after a European brand that will set it apart in the carpark.

The company will also be hoping the darlings of PSA Group - the DS3, DS4 and DS5 - will seduce Kiwis. Introduced in 2009, the DS range has dynamic styling and modern badging and already makes up 10 per cent of the company's sales in Europe, with 60 per cent of buyers new to the brand.

Priced from $44,990 for the DS4 and up to $62,990 for the DS5 turbo diesel, Sime Darby will be adding a DS3 cabriolet by July this year, a DS5 hybrid diesel and the five- to seven-seater Picasso people mover.

Citroen New Zealand's divisional manager, Simon Rose, who moved across from Peugeot NZ, is confident by reinvigorating the brand here, the sales will follow.

"The future is an exciting one for everyone, and one I am eager to make my mark on," says Rose.

Won and lost

While Sime Darby has added to its fleet, but it has officially lost distribution of Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands in New Zealand. From May 1, they will be under Fiat Chrysler NZ Limited.