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New Citro├źn C3 will arrest "very poor" B-segment sales, says brand director

Citroën UK brand director Bekir Hassan wants the brand to be a top ten seller in the UK’s B-segment when the new C3 bolsters its range from January – branding the current model’s sales performance as “very poor”.

Hassan hailed the newcomer as a vehicle that customers can “aspire to own” at its official launch to the UK media in Barcelona this week.

And while he would not speculate on sales figures in a market expected to shrink by between 6% and 9% next year, he said that the easily-customised new C3 – which features an evolution of the quirky C4 Cactus’ styling – would raise Citroen’s game in the segment.

Speaking to AM at the launch, Hassan said: “We’re currently 18th placed in the UK’s biggest market segment and that is very poor – no two ways about it.

“In the rest of Europe the C3 accounts for around 20% of Citroën sales, but here in the UK it’s just 10% and that tells you all you need to know about the current model. It’s just not performing.

“With the new model we’re aiming for the top ten and that will account for a large part of our volume next year.”

Citroën scored a disappointing 3.6 out of ten, the lowest score of all manufacturers subject to the survey, when dealers were asked to rate them overall in the NFDA’s recent summer dealer satisfaction survey.

Dealers also rated their prospects of future profit return at 3.5, again the lowest of any manufacturer, despite the imminent arrival of the new C3 and the prospect of the striking AirCross SUV reaching UK shores in 2018.

Hassan would not comment on suggestions that the low scores were a backlash against Citroen’s decision to split the Citroen and DS franchises, leaving most dealers without the brand which has proved profitable thanks to sales of the popular DS 3 in recent years.

He suggested, however, that the C3’s anticipated growth in sales would go some way to bolstering hatchback sales in Citroën dealerships which have lost their DS franchise.

Hassan said: “C3 as the huge area of opportunity for us, in that larger, mainstream B-segment.

“A month ago we took the dealers to Geneva to introduce them to C3 and they really were very excited about it.

“I see the C3 and DS 3 as two cars targeting different areas of the market. C3 is the mainstream B-segment and DS 3 is the premium B-segment. There is a risk of some migration, but we are clearly targeting conquest customers."

Earlier this week Citroen unveiled its new store at Stratford’s Westfield shopping centre, complete with a new C3 on display.

The new location forms part of a Citroën Urban project which will see the brand have a greater presence in urban locations, including shopping centres. Hassan suggested that the Citroën project would be followed by a similar scheme for the DS brand.

Asked whether the stores would soon be accompanied by a change in online approach, with possible online retailing, Hassan said: “In the future there will be a change in online stance.”

He added: “There is no intention of undermining our core strategy which remains sellin a vast number of cars through our franchised dealer network. The message really has to be that we intend to develop ways of supporting their sales operations.”

AutoExpress has reported that Citroen will begin fixed price online sales in 2017, with test drives being the only contact with the retailer.

Citroën chief executive Linda Jackson confirmed that dealers were being consulted on the project, which will be rolled out next year.

The new C3 will go on sale in the UK on January 3.

Citroën will be sending cars on a tour of dealerships prior to its official on-sale date to help generate interest in the new model.

The C3 will be available in a range of three trims (Touch, Feel and Flair) with a choice of 68PS, 82PS or 110PS turbocharged PureTech 1.2-litre petrol engines or 75PS or 100 PS 1.6-litre BlueHDi turbodiesel units.

A six-speed automatic gearbox option will be available with the 110 PureTech unit from March.

At launch, prices start at £10,940 for the Touch PureTech 68 and top out with the £17,040 Flair BlueHDi S&S.

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