Why Citroën is the new Dacia
Citroën has a new boss with a new strategy. One very close to Dacia’s. By Phil McNamara.
BEHIND THE HEADLINES
Thierry Koskas, the new CEO of Citroën, promises affordable mobility, transparent pricing and a simple range, eschewing excessive tech. Sounds familiar? That’s because this vow echoes the strategy of budget brand Dacia from crosstown rival Renault Group.
Dacia’s market share is growing, and one in every six cars sold in France comes from the Romanian brand. In 2022, Dacia sold 573,800 vehicles compared to 700,000 Citroëns worldwide. But under Koskas’s leadership, Citroën is targeting one million vehicles annually – more appropriate for a brand whose number one value is now defined as ‘popular’. Citroën’s lacklustre commercial performance prompted Koskas’s replacement of previous CEO, Vincent Cobée. The former Nissan executive envisaged Citroën as an affordable mobility brand and introduced the Ami urban mobility pod, the competitively priced flagship C5 X crossover and the preparatory work for the next new Citroën, the replacement C3.
‘AT CITROËN, IT IS OUR MISSION TO MAKE MOBILITY ACCESSIBLE FOR ALL’ THIERRY KOSKAS, CITROËN CEO
Koskas acknowledges Cobée’s contribution but emphasises his sales and marketing experience will crank up sales. A key element will be the allnew C3 supermini, set to launch in early 2024.
‘The C3 will reinvent the affordable electric car,’ says Koskas. ‘It will cost below €25,000 but have all the features you expect. There’s no [such] offer on the market today.’
Well, yes and no. The Dacia Spring is Europe’s most affordable electric car, costing a mere €15,800 (after a €5k eco subsidy) in France, with a facelifted version coming to the UK in 2024. It’s 300mm shorter than the C3 and currently lacks advanced safety features like lane assist and automated emergency braking, though these will become mandatory in the EU next year. More pointedly, the electric C3 will boast a 186-mile range compared with the Spring’s 137 miles.
Both companies are striving for cost-effectiveness. Citroën is leading Stellantis’s French push in the Indian and South American markets, with two new models, the C3 and C3 Aircross. These models, despite different exterior design and interiors from the European C3, will share components, thereby boosting scale and reducing costs. Low-cost labour is critical for Dacia too.
Other shared values are to boost manufacturing simplicity by eliminating model variations and complex parts. Dacia encourages customers to use their smartphones for connected features incar and doesn’t offer leather or electronically adjustable seats; Citroën’s Oli concept car follows suit and eschews industry trends such as leaning towards larger batteries and lavish tech.
This thinking – along with a pledge on transparent pricing – will bolster Citroën’s attempts to keep cars affordable in these inflationary times. The outgoing C3 You model costs £13,995 in the UK, only £200 more expensive than the entry-level Dacia Sandero hatch. Koskas took over as CEO in February 2023, and his strategy for Citroën as a popular brand is underpinned by four pillars: comfort, simplicity, sustainability and daring.
So is Citroën the Stellantis group’s Dacia fighter, CAR asks Koskas? ‘We will be facing them on some products, for sure, with similar pricing.’ But he points out key differences: unlike Dacia, Citroën sells to fleets and has an extensive light commercial range.
‘And we are going full electric and have a brand that has a long, long history. So we can be facing them but we are not lookalike.’ He concludes: ‘We are a popular brand, not a low-cost brand, and it is our mission to make mobility accessible for everyone. And today mobility has to be electric.’
Oli concept: the new Citroën manifesto
The clues to the new wave
The Oli concept turns its back on car-industry excess. It’s compact (4.2m), and has a vertical windscreen to reduce manufacturing costs and reflect more sunlight, so the air-con compressor can be smaller. Panels are flat to make them strong and easy to manufacture, and the roof is constructed of recyclable, reinforced cardboard. The battery may be small (40kWh) but it’ll still go 250 miles, while its front-end graphics will appear on the new C3. ‘Daring is very much a part of Citroën’s DNA,’ says new boss Thierry Koskas. ‘With Oli we go light, the battery at the right size and necessary tech. This turns 180˚ away from industry trends.’
Affordable electric will be key to Citroën under Koskas