Vincent Cobee: 'We will be respectful of Indian customers and create value'

The CEO of Citroen speaks about the company's future in India.

By Hormazd Sorabjee calendar 07 Jun 2022 Views icon6020 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp

You have launched the C5 Aircross earlier in a very small way but the C3 obviously is the big one. It seems like a very measured launch for Citroen in India. Don't you think a bigger bang approach is better?
We have looked at the Indian market for quite some time and it is extremely competitive, and very challenging but also with amazing opportunities. So, we want to approach it with a combination that will continue tuning of great ambition, but also great respect and great humility.

So, we started with an industrial setup - engineering centre, powertrain plant, vehicle plant. We launched the C5 Aircross which, first, is the ultimate demonstration of the Citroen brand’s capabilities. Great design, posture, an amazing and bold experience starting with comfort and fundamentally a very attractive transport solution.

With the C3, we will walk the same line and obviously grow in terms of visibility and exposure because we will be entering the big hatch segment. So, we will go in sync with volume ambition and a bigger presence. We will expand our dealer network, demonstrate the car and show all the key elements of sales and ownership experience.

I think we will always need to be respectful of the Indian customer and need to start by creating value and accompany the growth. It is going to be a fascinating, multi-year journey and as you know, we will come back very soon with two additional offers that will give us a great platform to develop the Citroen brand in India.

Are you happy with the C5 volumes in India which are just about double digits a year and quite insignificant?
The C5 was meant to be a flagship and a demonstration of all the Citroen capabilities. And compared to what we were expecting, we are actually substantially ahead. Obviously, we are talking about a small segment at a fairly high price point, but it was a very great way for us to present the amazing strengths and values of the Citroen brand. For us, it was a great result but obviously in a very narrow segment, and we will be using this foundation to expand into the hatchback segment.

You have said that volumes are not your main goal but the sense one gets is that the C3 has come into a volume segment. Why not bring in a 4.3-metre product which is a more progressive way into the market?
You will see and experience the vehicle in the next few weeks and I am sure you will be quite impressed by what has been prepared. What we wanted to do to start with is to say that Citroen is a brand that wants to bring attractive and exciting technology to the broadest possible audience.

So yes, the C3 enters the sub-4m segment but it does so with amazing onboard comfort, great styling, great posture, lots of space and great relevant technology that will make a statement for the Citroen brand. It’s not because you’re in the sub-4m segment that you should satisfy yourself with the low-lying, cramped vehicles. It will bring a lot of energy to the segment and then we will build upon that to provide other vehicles. Some of them might be above 4.3 metres.

A big surprise has been how quickly you are bringing an EV into the market. What are your thoughts on the size of the market?
It is a fascinating challenge. As a society we all have embarked into an energy transition that goes much beyond the automotive industry. As a newcomer, but also as a global player coming into India, we wanted to be future-ready and bring vehicles with the capability in a very short timeframe to adapt to this market. We think India in particular could actually change quite rapidly more rapidly than the western world.

Why? Because the challenges are massive, but also the dynamism of the market is extremely high. So we launch the new C3 with a variety of powertrain options and there will be an electrification solution. What will the balance be? Probably quite low at the beginning, but it might ramp up very quickly. So, we want to be ready.

In India, changes are sprung on you suddenly in terms of curveballs being thrown in the shape of regulations which have a very limited timeframe to bring to the market. What are your views on that?
Fundamentally, there are always two aspects. We have a lot of respect for countries and their political intentions, and we will comply with the regulations. I think everyone in the industry has the same situation. The benefit we have is we are part of a global company. So, every needed technology is on the shelf, be it the type of engine and fuel or the type of regulation.

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