Citroen DS in China

Citroën about DS brand and C4 Cactus

Interview with Julien Montarnal – Citroën

This Interview was first published in the August 2014 edition of Auto Market Intelligence sophus3’s quarterly journal of ideas and analysis aimed at e-business professionals working in, or supporting, the automotive sector. Julien Montarnal, Director of Marketing for Citroën, talks to AMI’s Glenn Brooks about the decision to separate out the DS brand and the launch campaign for the new C4 Cactus.

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AMI:  As part of PSA’s restructuring, DS is being turned into a brand. So where does that leave the positioning of Citroën?JM: DS is the sign that a French car maker has come back to the premium market. The first generation models – Citroën DS3, DS4, DS5 were the start. But now, DS is being separated and becoming a stand alone, premium brand. Gradually, it will become a strong alternative to the established premium brands.
This means, for Citroën, that it is a brand in the mainstream. Ford, Renault, Nissan, Opel/Vauxhall – these are our targets. But the idea for us is not to blend in but instead to bring the Citroën proposition to this part of the market.

AMI: How would you define that proposition?
JM: It’s about innovative design, comfort, and accessible technology. You see this clearly with the new C4 Cactus, new C1 and our other models, and you will see this more and more.

AMI: Carlos Tavares has said PSA’s two traditional brands must reduce model ranges – which Citroën cars will not be replaced?
JM: We don’t make any comment about this now as we are focused on launching C4 Cactus and C1. What I can tell you is that our future is about continuing what we have been doing in the last [few] years. Our brand is becoming more and more international.
One of the weaknesses we had was a focus on Europe. Five years ago, two cars out of ten we sold outside Europe. Just two. Last year, this rose to four out of ten. We did this thanks mainly to China, Russia and Latin America but we must continue to expand our product offer in our traditional European markets.
AMI: We do see some big changes to European segments though – will C5 be replaced in this region or will Citroën withdraw from that class?
JM: It’s too soon to tell, but the more the current C5 continues to be a success in China, the more the chances for a new investment for a model like this for Europe too.
What really counts for us is that we continue the new direction for our strategy of making the brand more international and second, bringing back value to our brand.


AMI: Could you see DS moving into small vehicle segments, and larger model segments too?
JM: Why not? This ambition to be recognised as a premium brand is what we are doing. Twenty years ago, premium brands were mostly in the D segments and larger segments. Now, we see C segment, B segment and many others. So, DS might be legitimate in having also small products. It’s a story which might be continued in other segments, yes.

Citroen DS in China

AMI: So we will see a DS 1; a DS 2?
JM: The only thing I can tell you is that we will not stay with the model range simply as it is now. We have the first generation of DS3/4/5 but you can expect a lot of things to happen – new products being proposed. Already, we are doing this in China with some new types of DS – the 5LS sedan and the 6WR crossover. Lots of launches, lots of new cars.

AMI: Won’t the new positioning of Peugeot clash with DS?

JM: No. What I can tell you is that this strategy I have briefly outlined for DS is the strategy for PSA Peugeot Citroën – it is approved by our supervisory board, by the heads of the brands, and all the other stakeholders. The positioning of Peugeot, of DS, and of Citroën – each has its own clear strategy.

AMI: How difficult is it to effectively be undertaking a rebranding in the face of ongoing company-wide losses?
JM:  We are in the process of rolling out Back In The Race [PSA’s restructuring plan] to make PSA Peugeot Citroën a healthy carmaker again. The company has lost a lot of money in the last two to three years. So we need to be profitable again. Once we do that, the sky is the limit.

AMI: You’re in the process of launching the C4 Cactus. What’s the key message of the campaign?
JM: The campaign started earlier in the summer – first was France, then Spain, Belgium, and other markets will follow, with the UK coming in October but even for the UK, some of the pre-activity is available on YouTube. The idea behind the ad, and the tagline, is: ‘The car which answers the questions of today’.
What we have is various stages of history where people ask themselves many questions – from Roman times, and during the Crusades, Marie Antoinette, and so on and so on, and you end up on the moon. The questions are asked: why are car doors not protected like a soldier’s armour or why do cars need so much power, why are dashboards always so complicated – and then you see the car, the C4 Cactus, which is the car which answers all these questions with new solutions.

AMI: It’s a Europe-wide campaign?
JM: Yes, in French, in Spanish, in English – all the languages are there for the markets.


Citroen Cactus

AMI: Can the big five markets change any of the material or instead use their own?
JM: Actually….not that much, but out of the assets, they can select from what they want and what will work best in their market. For example, in one TV ad, Marie Antoinette asks why the thrones are far apart – and then this demonstrates the car’s sofa seating – but in another Marie Antoinette asks Louis XVI why some cars don’t have more glass to let in more light, so markets have the choice to go with the different options with the ad.
There are other choices such as another TV ad with people looking at the car in the street and the sight of it answers the question of why there isn’t more distinctive design. Then there is also a similar ad which is more dynamic where all the innovative features of the car are shown – 7-inch touchscreen, glass roof and so on. So countries are allowed to change some elements of their movies but the structure is the same, and the tag line is the same.

AMI: How will you know if the plan to reinvent the Citroën brand has worked?
JM: We have several indicators. The first one is whether we are reaching our volume targets or not. We do not disclose these numbers. Then, we have pricing – the ability of the market agreeing with us on the right pricing for our cars.
If you take the European market from five years ago and now, we know it has lost about 25% of its volume. This made all the industry’s car makers enter into a war around pricing. So our ability to get pricing right is key.
Another indicator is what happens with DS. We know already that two out of three people we have attracted into our showrooms are new to the brand. So, for Citroën, we will know if the plan is a success if we are selling the cars at the right price, if research shows us that the brand image is where we would want it to be, attracting new customers and of course having our loyal customers coming back again and again.