BRUCE GAIN

Citroen fights to shake 'taxi' image in China

Bruce Gain is an Automotive News Europe correspondent in France.Bruce Gain is an Automotive News Europe correspondent in France.
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Citroen wants to develop an upscale image in China, but it's not easy because when people there see a Citroen on the road it is often being used as a taxi.

In the early 1990s, Citroen was one of the first Western automakers to establish a presence in China. The Fukang, a rebadged Citroen ZX, led the way and became a best-selling taxi in China's largest cities. Although Citroen parent PSA/Peugeot-Citroen and local partner Dongfeng Motor have not produced a Fukang since 2009, more than 150,000 units of the car remain in circulation as part of taxi fleets in large cities.

"Advertising campaigns and Citroen sales have helped to transform Citroen's image in China, but the association [potential customers have] with any brand is the cars in the streets," Citroen CEO Frederic Banzet told Automotive News Europe.

To help reset the mind-set of car buyers in the world's largest market, Citroen has made its DS sub-brand a stand-alone marque with its own dealer network.

China is the only market where the DS line stands alone.

Banzet said that the brand also is getting an image boost in China from targeted advertising campaigns and local production of models such as the C2, C4L and C5.

You can reach Bruce Gain at bgain@crain.com.

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