Citroën, which formally announced it would enter the Indian market earlier this year, has now said that it is looking to create a seamless digital experience for prospective customers of its first model, the C5 Aircross SUV. It will compete with the Volkswagen Tiguan and Hyundai Tucson in the premium SUV segment, a growing market in India.

Photo taken at Citroën’s arrival announcement in February 2018 in Chennai (southern India) during a local press conference. From L to R: Linda Jackson – Citroën CEO, Roland Bouchara – Citroën India Sales and Marketing Director, Carlos Tavares – PSA Group CEO, Emmanuel Delay, – PSA Group India-Pacific Regional Director.

Roland Bouchara, Citroën India Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing, said that the Brand is initially targeting ten cities through smaller, highly digitized showrooms. With high digital intervention, the Brand aims to have comparatively smaller sales outlets throughout the country. Prospective buyers will be able to research and chose model variants, transact for finance and insurance digitally, he added.

Roland Bouchara – Citroën India Sales and Marketing Director.

Bouchara’s strategy aims to help eventual dealers invest judiciously on offering larger more traditional dealer premises.

“Since we are setting up a new network, we are proposing a different business model to our dealers, wherein we will have relatively smaller showrooms but digitalized,” Bouchara said.

He did not however, share the exact number and locations of dealers the Brand aims to have for the first phase.

“We are building a complete retail eco-system in the country, which is essential before we launch the first product. This will be supported by service contracts and trade-in plans which will be announced during the launch phase of the vehicle,” Bouchara said.

By launching their premium SUV, Citroën aims to create market acceptance for Citroën products in India, he noted.

C5 Aircross SUV will be available in India starting in September 2020.

Citroën has lined up ATAWADAC – Any Time, Any Where, Any Device, Any Content – a seamless digital consumer experience created for the Indian market, which it plans to roll out in international markets as well.

“It (ATAWADAC) will allow the customer to seamlessly research products, select variants, and configure options and transact for service contracts, finance and insurance,” Bouchara said.

The digital-first approach is inspired by new-age Indians leading digital lives, he added.

Citroën is no stranger to India, with Peugeot having entered into a partnership with the erstwhile Premier family resulting in Peugeot PAL India. However, it pulled out from the joint venture in 2001. In 2017, the PSA Group announced a partnership with CK Birla Group to re-enter the Indian market. CK Birla Group will manufacture gearboxes and engines from a factory in Hosur along the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka border, and vehicle assembly plant in Northern Tamil Nadu in Thiruvallur district. Citroën has also opened its India Technical Centre in Chennai. “The Hosur plant, inaugurated in November last year, has begun exporting gearboxes to Europe already”, said Bouchara. The targeted annual capacity for the vehicle Assembly plant north of Chennai is 100,000 units a year.

Bouchara also announced that the Brand will introduce four additional models in India over the next four years beginning in 2021, after the C5 Aircross SUV launch in 2020. It has already established leasing and finance arms in the country to make the C5 Aircross SUV and other upcoming models accessible for the consumer financially.

Citroën is also developing its new car platform C-Cubed, standing for Cool, Comfort and Clever, for future rollouts, “most of which will be in the mainstream segment.” according to Bouchara. Local manufacturing in India would enable the company to reach a high level of domestic content, upward of 90%, predicted Bouchara.

As Citroën sets-up its entry into India, overall car sales are off in every major region. North America and Europe look to be the healthiest of markets and are also quite large. Still, they are down from their peaks and, being mature markets, are not poised for growth in the way places that are still “motorizing,”

For the growing Asian market and looking at data compiled by Bloomberg, China is a significantly bigger passenger vehicle market than every other in the continent combined. Japan, the second-biggest passenger vehicle market, is less than a quarter the size of China’s and India is half the size of Japan’s. While India may be poised for growth and hence sales potential, will the strategy of Citroën entering the market with their high-end C5 Aircross SUV secure significant sales or just attempt to establish Brand recognition for the success of subsequent models? Foreign competition such as Volkswagen, and others, along with India’s homeland automobile manufacturers are also taking aim, in the same timeframe, to market a range of models to a varied income population. Hopefully, Citroën will find its niche and profitability among a crowded automotive landscape.