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Citroen set for new start here

New Citroen DS3 cabriolet at 2012 Paris Motor Show.

French car followers are being promised a new deal, including more chic DS models, as Citroen enters a new era in Australia. Value will also be boosted across a nine-model lineup that's withered down under since the global financial crisis.

Citroen showrooms will become more like a new-car boutique, with a special emphasis on the DS models including the upcoming DS3 cabrio.

"We want to make Citroen stand out. It's not just a commodity brand," says John Startari, who heads the French brand for newly-appointed distributor the Sime Darby Motors Group.

"We also need Citroen to be more relevant. So we're rationalising the lineup and increasing the competitiveness." Only 1702 Citroens were sold in Australia last year and, although Startari point-blank refuses to talk numbers, the target from France is obviously more than 2000 cars in 2013.

That should finally mean a C3 price leader instead of today's $23,990 starter car, priced more in line with rivals like the Toyota Corolla that start at $19,990. The DS5 is also set for a bigger role, playing in a size and price class where Citroen wants to stand out from a huge range of rivals including the Ford Mondeo, Hyundai i40, new Mazda6 and even the Peugeot 508.

"Australians really don't know about DS. I think there is an untapped demand for those cars, which are like the Mini," says Startari.

"All the DS cars are here now, but they haven't really been pushed. It's about telling people what they are and what they can do. And building up the package that goes with them. "Our halo car is the DS5. It is already here but has never had a proper Australian launch. "So we are starting virtually with a clean slate in June. 

The price won't come down but there will be better value." He also confirms the DS3 cabrio without getting any more specific on timing than "later this year" for its showroom arrival. Citroen's decision to switch its agency from Ateco Automotive to Sime Darby is, says the ex-Proton chief, a major opportunity - for both the brand and its buyers. 

"Citroen should be more of a premium brand. The cars are good but people haven't been told about them," Startari says. "There are too many variants. That will be reduced. I think we will be one of the success stories this year. We can make Citroen stand out."