Citroen's 93 corporate specialist dealers will have an opportunity to boost sales with the launch of the C5 this month.
The upper medium C5, expected to sell between 70-80% to fleets, will compete in the Mondeo, Vectra and Laguna market. Citroen hopes it will take around 5% of the sector.
A Citroen UK spokesman said: “Citroen has traditionally had a higher level of retail sales, but we have been encouraged by recent growth in the fleet sector – our sales last year were up 40% on 1999.”
Citroen claims the C5 has a roomier interior than its rivals but is shorter and “in good proportions”.
“User-choosers want a car they can show off and be proud of. The C5 almost looks a class above, but is the price of its mainstream rivals,” said the spokesman.
Citroen will deal direct with sales to the larger national fleets, with the corporate specialist dealers focusing on the medium and smaller fleet businesses, supported by a national fleet team.
Retail dealers – Citroen has a 250-strong network – are also expected to enjoy success with the C5.
The spokesman said: “What's good for fleets is good for retail buyers. We expect the C5 to attract married men in the 30-45 age group, though women may be attracted by the high seating position, which is similar to the Picasso.”
Success in the fleet sector will hinge on residual values. The C5's high technological specification includes adaptable suspension, light/rain sensitive lights/wipers and satellite navigation to encourage strong residuals.
The car has low running costs, including a 20,000-mile servicing schedule for petrol models and 12,500 for diesel, and comes with a three-year warranty and five-year maintenance-free period for the suspension system.
“The C5 servicing costs compared to the Xantia are 25% lower over 60,000 miles and 39% lower over 100,000 miles,” said the spokesman.
The car comes in four specification levels – LX, SX, Exclusive and Exclusive SE – and a choice of four petrol and two diesel engines. The entry-level 1.8-litre petrol will be priced £14,580, rising to £23,890 for the all-new 2.2 HDi.
An estate version will be available in the summer. “Citroen is strong in the estate market – we wouldn't be surprised if the estate reached 30% of C5 sales,” said the spokesman.
Citroen will use the C5 platform for the C6 flagship model, based on the Lineage concept, due for launch in 2004. Next year, a C3 supermini will be available and, long term, the Xsara will be replaced by a C4.