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Citroen shifts gear with new robotic gearbox

Auto option: The C4 will soon offer a clutchless manual gearbox.

Citroen looks to a robotic gearbox, more diesels, new segments - and Volvo

15 Nov 2006

CITROEN’S planned increase in sales in the Australian market – to 10,000 a year – will be built on the back of increased demand for diesel engines, a planned foot in the door of the small SUV market and a crack at entrenched European brands like Volvo.

Frederic Banzet, a director of Citroen International who is in charge of all Citroen markets outside France, told Australian journalists recently that Citroen C4 diesel sales were expected to rise with the introduction of PSA Peugeot-Citroen’s new EGS "robotic" clutchless manual gearbox, which is effectively a low-cost automatic.

Mr Banzet said that Citroen was well placed to ride the growth in the diesel share of the market.

"We have not yet seen the end of growth certain current models can bring – C4 especially," he said.

The C4 diesel would be sold from early in the New Year as the C4 HDi with PSA Peugeot-Citroen’s electronic gearbox system (EGS). According to Mr Banzet, the EGS was about half the cost of an automatic to produce and had better fuel economy than a manual. For example, Australia ADR figures were 4.6L/100km for the manual C4 HDi and 4.5L/100km for the EGS.

He said Citroen Australia was expecting to increase the penetration of diesel engines in the C4 mix with the EGS transmission.

At the moment, Citroen is selling a 70 per cent mix of diesels in the C5 range. With the C4 the figure is 20 per cent diesel.

But, according to Citroen Australia general manager Miles Williams, this was twice the penetration that was expected at the launch and he expected to make another leap with the introduction of the EGS gearbox.

"Our experience with C5 is that diesel customers want an automatic gearbox," Mr Williams said.

In February, Citroen will introduce a 2.2-litre diesel C5 with twin turbos.

Mr Banzet said that diesel fuel was the best response to concerns about CO2 emissions and that if Australian buyers became preoccupied with CO2 emissions it would increase the potential for diesel sales.

He added that rapid changes in buyer tastes were also moving in Citroen’s favour with the forthcoming seven-seat C4 Picasso set to appeal increasingly to Australian buyers of small SUVs.

"The C4 Picasso is a new segment for us. So that will be pure additional growth that is not just in the MPV area but in the 4x2 SUV territory," he said.

33 center imageMr Banzet said that one feature he was seeing in the worldwide automotive landscape was an acceleration of changes in the trends between the various market segments.

"You have trends which last for a while and then stop and reverse. But (it is happening) more quickly than in the past. You also now have a higher diversity of customer taste and expectations, and that is why you now have cross vehicles in between estates, SUVs and MPVs," he said.

"With the C4 Picasso I am not joking when I say it will appeal to customers in the SUV market because it has certain features of an SUV."Meanwhile, Mr Banzet said the company would like to import the C-Crosser – an SUV based on the Mitsubishi Outlander – to Australia.

"There is no firm answer on when it will come here because we have not had talks with Mitsubishi on whether we can import it here," he said, adding there was nothing in the contract that would preclude Citroen from selling the C-Crosser outside Europe.

"There are discussions with Mitsubishi about extending the capacity allocated to PSA (about 30,000 units a year) and those talks are not finished.

"There are some geographical discussions as well and those discussions are not finished. Yes, we would like to see it in Australia."Mr Banzet said that Citroen’s major competitors in Australia were the mainstream European car-makers, but increasingly Volvo was its sights.

"Volvo, yes, because we are moving more into (Volvo) territory."

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