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Insight: Citroën Retail targets growth

Citroën Retail’s plan to expand to 15 sites before 2010 – it currently has nine – is a worst case scenario.

That’s according to the carmaker-owned retail group’s managing director Thierry Calewaert, who is eager to meet growth expectations earlier.

“If we can do it before then, that’s great,” he says. “If there are suitable sites which fit with our growth strategy then we’ll go for it.”

Belgium-born Calewaert has been with Citroën for 21 years, starting in the marketing department in his home country, before becoming commercial manager for Citroën in Paris with responsibility for South America. He became head of the Citroën Retail Group in 2004.

Citroën Retail accounts for 13% of all Citroën sales in the UK, but Calewaert wants to take that up to 30%, which he believes will happen when the group reaches 15 sites.

The group sold 16,000 vehicles from eight sites last year.

Higher representation

He says: “We’re looking to expand in order to give Citroën a larger market share in the UK. The brand needs higher representation and we want to be there to strengthen the brand values further.”

Citroën Retail is building its 10th site, on the ground floor of its HQ in Slough, adding to two sites each in Manchester and London and sites in Birmingham, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Hatfield.

Hatfield, in Hertfordshire, is its newest site, acquired in May.

Calewaert says: “We had been seeking representation in Hatfield for a long time and the reaction from local customers has been great. ”

The new Hatfield site is still awaiting refurbishment on the exterior and its servicing area needs a lot of renovation, but work is already under way, ready for an official opening in September.

Calewaert says: “Using the space at the Slough HQ for a dealership is a fantastic opportunity to use it as a training base for management within Citroën.

It’s a great way to get a taste of Citroën’s profit centre – the dealership.

“I don’t think you can truly understand the business we’re in unless you have first-hand experience with the dealerships.”

Citroën Retail still has no representation in Newcastle, the south-west or Wales, but Calewaert made it clear the group wouldn’t be buying single, isolated sites spread out across the country.

He says: “For example, we would like to have a presence in Wales, but we want to acquire two or three at once in order for each of them to support each other.

“Single sites is not the way we want to expand. We want to acquire in areas where we already have representation first, so we can strengthen a supportive regional structure, and then move on from there.”

Calewaert attends dealer council meetings and refutes any claims that his retail group gets preferential treatment from Citroën.

He says: “We’re treated just the same as any other dealer group within the network.”

Citroën Retail isn’t necessarily picked first to pilot new schemes or processes.

New ideas are taken to Citroën’s dealer council and two or three dealers will take on the new scheme and then take back the results to the next dealer council.

While some dealers are focusing on their used and aftersales business due to the pressures new car buyers are feeling from the credit crunch, Calewaert remains optimistic.

  • Read this story in full in the 25 July 2008 issue of AM. To subscribe to AM magazine click here or call 01733 468659.
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