PSA Group-owned French carmaker Citroen, which is slated to go to market in India in the first quarter of 2021, is fast readying its dealer network in the country.
The company which announced a shift in its plans from 2020 to early 2021, attributed primarily to the Covid-19 disruption, will step into the Indian market with its maiden Citroen C5 Aircross SUV. As a result, preparatory work has begun to set up aretail channel to establish the brand in the highly competitive Indian passenger vehicle market. Its first showroom – Paris Motocorp - in the national capital is seen coming up in the Western part of the city, in the Naraina Industrial Area.
Large billboards announcing the French carmaker's arrival into India have been put in place outside the work-in-progress building that is situated in the vicinity of posh localities such as Rajouri Garden, Patel Nagar and Pusa Road.
Small network, homely ambience
With an incremental plan to gradually scale up volumes in the country, Citroen is looking to make a low-key start to its retail operations inIndia. As per our sister publication Autocar India, the carmaker will begin with an initial set of 10-15 outlets in strategic locations across the country as it arrives with a brand-setting product to mark its entry.
The C5 Aircross is expected to be offered at prices in the range of Rs 30 lakh, ex-showroom, and will emphasise on the French carmaker’s core values of distinctive design and high levels of comfort. With a CKD approach, the focus is not on raking large volumes with the premium SUV.
While the carmaker had directed towards building smaller footprint showrooms based on its ‘La Maison Citroen’ concept which requires a front-display area of approximately150 square metres, the outlet in West Delhi is seemingly bigger.
The upcoming showroom, which was erstwhile a Hyundai Motor India dealership, is multi-storied and boasts a large carpet area. However, the outlet could still be built in line with the brand’s La Maison philosophy which uses wood and earthy tones to create a warm and inviting atmosphere. La Maison stands for home in French and was introduced as a more viable retail format by the company in 2017. As of May 2019, Citroen had all of 17 such stores around the world.
The 'phygital' sales mantra
Citroen showrooms are also expected to put a high degree of focus on customer experience which will see these outlets have an interplay of physical products and digital tools. Dealerships will deploy highly-interactive virtual technologies such as AR and VR walls to help buyers configure their cars.
Speaking to Autocar Professional recently, Roland Bouchara, Senior Vice-President, Sales & Marketing of Citroen India, said: “Our approach in India will focus on digitalisation . . . and what we term the phygital network. We already have one dealership in Ahmedabad which is a pilot. The showroom is much smaller with a big screen in a digital space.”
The inspiration is clearly from the La Maison Citroen concept which was shown to visiting India media during a trip to Paris last year. During interactions, Citroen officials spoke of the need to think smarter while selling cars. The outlets under the umbrella of La Maison Citroen would typically be compact with two prominent models displayed along with a digital screen for customers to browse through for additional information.
The rationale for this concept was keeping in mind the changing tastes of young customers who like the virtual experience rather than the tried-and-tested formula of visiting dealerships and interacting with salespersons. From the dealer’s point of view, the investments would be a lot lower while ensuring maximum eyeballs.
“What we want to showcase can be done in the digital space to configure a car, a 3D configurator including accessories, trading, finance. That we believe will be something different and unique as this will be available from the launch of the car and India will be the first market for this drive,” said Bouchara. La Maison Citroen debuted in Europe in 2017 and India has already been identified as a key market by Groupe PSA for its global aspirations.
The flagship Citroen C5 Aircross, which will kickstart the company’s India operations, will be assembled at the CK Birla facility in Tamil Nadu. Groupe PSA had signed two joint ventures with companies of India’s CK Birla Group for vehicle assembly, distribution and powertrain manufacturing of its cars in the country.
The carmaker plans to roll out a new model every year until 2023, and while the C5 Aircross has been postponed from 2020 to 2021 timing, no rearrangements have been made to alter the project timeline of its ‘C-Cubed’ programme.
The programme includes local design and development of its first ground-up, made-in-India SUV slated for a 2021 launch as well. Codenamed C21, the new vehicle will be underpinned by Citroen’s new common modular platform (CMP) which is developed for emerging markets such as India and South America.
While the C5 Aircross will only come with a diesel engine option, subsequent products are only going to be petrol powered. Compared to the 2.0-litre diesel in the C5 Aircross, the upcoming compact crossover is expected to get a 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol motor.
Full interview with Roland Bouchara, SVP, Sales & Marketing, Citroen India in Autocar Professional’s December 15, 2020 issue