On March 7, in the wake of the Peugeot/Citroen parent PSA Group buying German brand Opel and British brand Vauxhall from General Motors, I wrote this: “Will the PSA Group take Peugeot and Citroen in New Zealand and Australia away from the current distributor, Sime Darby?”
Two months later, on May 16, that’s exactly what happened. Maylaysian-based Sime Darby Motor Group announced it is to sell its Peugeot, Citroen and DS (Citroen premium) distribution business in NZ and Australia.
New Zealand’s Rick Armstrong Motor Group will take over Sime Darby NZ assets from June 1 and thereafter distribute the French nameplates here.
In doing so the group becomes a distributor for the first time. Inchcape Australia will handle distribution across the Tasman.
The Armstrong Group already sells Peugeot and Citroen through retail dealerships in Auckland and Wellington. In fact, Peugeot was the group’s first new car franchise, 15 years ago.
Armstrong himself said he was looking forward to becoming the distributor for the two French marques. “When the opportunity came up, I jumped at it,” he said. “These are great brands with a long, proud history, not only in my business but across New Zealand.”
The recent sales history for both brands isn’t as rosy. Once, Peugeot was the go-to European brand in NZ.
In the early 1990s it regularly topped European rivals with upwards of 1000 sales. It was among the top 10 best-selling brands. Now it doesn’t figure in the top 15.
In 1998, it was the second best-selling European, its 597 sales trailing leader BMW’s 750. In 2001, it was third with 965 sales, behind Volkswagen’s 1355 and BMW’s 1127.
(BMW broke through 1000 sales in NZ for the first time in 2001). In 2003, Peugeot was again in the top three with 1331 sales.
Same in 2004 with 1317 cars, third behind BMW and VW. The slide began soon after and on through the global financial crisis.
Halfway through 2010 Peugeot was fifth behind VW and Audi in first and second place respectively, BMW in third spot and Mercedes-Benz at number four.
Peugeot is still sitting at number five, but a long way behind number four. It hasn’t been going places, unlike its German rivals.
Peugeot hasn’t had what buyers wanted – a serious choice of SUVs. Last year it sold 802 vehicles – number one European VW sold 5092, including commercials.
The math shows that VW’s sales in 15 years (2001-2016) jumped 275 per cent – from 1355 to 5092. Peugeot’s over the same period were down 17 per cent, from 965 in 2001 to 802 last year.
So how is the Armstrong Group going to boost Peugeot’s profile, let alone that of Citroen, which slumped from a recent high of 390 vehicles in 2014 to 200 last year?
That’s a sales dive in two years of almost 50 per cent. Both brands have new SUVs lined up for NZ, but arrival dates continue to get pushed back. Both need more retail visibility.
“There’s still a lot of passion in New Zealand for both brands – breathing new life into the brands will ultimately come from the product,” said Armstrong himself.
“Our plan is simple: over a short period of time we’ll update the entire range of cars for both brands and invite customers to come and see them, drive them, and make their own decisions.
“Our timing couldn’t be better. The new generation of SUVs, beginning with the 2008 and the soon-to-be-launched 3008, are incredible opportunities to relaunch Peugeot, and the Citroen C3 is a great package.
“This may surprise you but we represent only 50 per cent of the total Peugeot and Citroen retail volume in New Zealand, and we have no ambition to extend beyond that. We think a real strength of this business are our independent dealers around New Zealand.”
What about the DS brand, Citroen’s premium nameplate? Does it have a future in NZ as a rival to the Germans? “We are still working with PSA on DS,” said Armstrong. “PSA’s long-term ambition for the brand (DS) is exciting and again it’s backed by some incredible new product. Just at the moment our first goal is re-establishing Peugeot and Citroen.”
• Current NZ Peugeot/Citroen divisional manager Simon Rose will take up a new role with the Sime Darby Motor Group beyond June 1.