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Sleek Citroen C5 X here in 2022, but decision pending on EVs, PHEVs
Citroen’s local lineup to expand in 2022 with C5 X flagship, though EV/PHEV plans still murky
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18 Nov 2021
By TONY O'KANE
PLANS are afoot for Citroen to expand its local offering even further next year, with Peugeot Citroen Australia (PCA) confirming that the C5 X will cap off the Citroen range when it arrives here in the third quarter of 2022.
Unlike previous generations of the C5, which were largely forgettable four-door sedans and wagons, the next-generation C5 X is a fusion of sedan, wagon, and SUV virtues into one genre-bending package.
With a sporty profile merged with a jacked-up ride height, it measures 4.8 metres long and is proportioned similarly to a Skoda Superb Scout or Subaru Outback.
Pricing and local specifications won’t be announced until closer to launch, however, expect it to sit above the C5 Aircross Shine SUV ($46,990) as the brand’s flagship model.
However, while the C5 X will be available in right-hand drive form with a conventional petrol engine or 168kW plug-in hybrid powertrain for the UK market, PCA’s product planners have yet to determine which engine it will take for Australia – or whether it will offer both.
“We’re very excited about C5 X coming to Australia,” said PCA general manager Kate Gillis at the local launch of the new-generation C4 crossover.
“What we’re working through at the moment is getting the specification right. With regards to PHEV it’s absolutely on the table for evaluation, but we’ll be able to provide more detail as we get closer to the launch.”
It’s not the only model with electrification potential. While PCA is keeping its C5 X cards close to its chest, the language around bringing a battery-electric version of the C4, dubbed the e-C4 overseas, is a little more promising.
“It’s certainly an exciting vehicle, the e-C4.” Gillis continued. “We are definitely evaluating that at this stage, and we plan to give you some further information in the near future.”
The e-C4 is powered by a 100kW electric motor and stores 50kWh of energy in a lithium-ion battery pack, delivering 350km of range by the WLTP standard.
Though its EV credentials don’t give it an edge on power or range on other comparable rivals like the Kia Niro EV, Hyundai Kona Electric or Nissan Leaf E+, it does have longer legs than both the MG ZS EV and the base model Leaf.
Should it receive the green light for Australia, it could be a competitive choice in the burgeoning electric vehicle (EV) market depending on its price point, and with the petrol-powered C4 Shine, which launched this week, priced at $37,990, there appears to be plenty of room for an all-electric equivalent to come in under the $60K barrier where most mainstream SUVs tend to reside.
But while the potential is certainly there, PCA remains fairly noncommittal at this stage regarding electrification. While a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version of the C5 Aircross is available in the UK in right-hand drive form, PCA says that variant remains “under evaluation” for a local introduction.
Though hybrid uptake for Toyota’s RAV4 remains particularly strong - tempered only by the ongoing semiconductor shortage – and with Mitsubishi about to bring its own PHEV version of the just-launched Outlander SUV early next year – there appear to be no firm plans for Citroen to enter that space despite the availability of product.
The recently-announced PHEV option for the 3008 SUV for sister brand Peugeot – due Q1 2022 at an eye-watering $79,990 – may have something to do with that. PCA leadership is keen to maintain separation between Peugeot and Citroen Down Under, and having two midsize PHEV SUVs cutting stepping on each other’s toes may be seen as commercially untenable.
But with the loss of the Berlingo light commercial van (which was traditionally responsible for a large chunk of the brand’s local sales volume), Citroen will need some clever strategies to boost sales well above its tiny year-to-date figure of 112 units.
While a limited range is no doubt a handicap when it comes to capturing customers, another obstacle is simply getting prospective buyers to experience those vehicles first-hand.
“For Citroen our share of voice is low in our market,” said Ms Gillis, explaining PCA’s marketing strategy for the C4.
“We’re one of the smallest brands within the Australian automotive market, so for us going after share of voice is not going to win us any favours. What we need to do is get quite pinpointed with regard to working very, very closely with an awareness campaign where we have refined the audience really tightly.
“We have also looked at [marketing to] our existing customers, but also looking at really unique and interesting ways in which we can start to tell the story about the C4,” she added.
“As we get through 2021 and into 2022 our public awareness is going to be a mix of media, a mix of PR, and a mix of experiential activations that get people into the car to really experience it for themselves. It’s going to be a combination of a number of different touchpoints so that we can get more people experiencing the comfort of a Citroen.”
While Citroen currently allows vehicles to be reserved online, the company discounted the idea of moving toward online sales or a fixed-price model, instead preferring to continue its arrangement of working with its dealership network.
The arrival of new product will hopefully make the jobs of dealers easier, particularly the C4 and C5 X, whose design-led propositions invite curiosity more naturally than Citroen’s more conventional C3 and C5 Aircross offerings.
“2021 has been an extraordinarily challenging year, particularly for Citroen, and over the last number of years we have seen those sales start to decline. Bearing in mind that we no longer have the Berlingo in the range, we have concentrated our LCV [offering] to the Peugeot LCV range,” explained Gillis.
“However, with the launch of the C4 and with the new C5 X which is coming through in 2022, we’ve got some real ambition of growth plans within the market and we’ve started to round out a really good range of Citroens that accompanies the C3 and C5 Aircross. So, the introduction of the C4 helps us to build a new audience for the brand and allows us then to extend that story again as we get to the C5 X next year,” she concluded.
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