NICK GIBBS

Citroen's incoming CEO worked wonders in the UK

Nick Gibbs is UK Correspondent at Automotive News Europe.Nick Gibbs is UK Correspondent at Automotive News Europe.
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Citroen's new CEO, Linda Jackson, has proved herself in the UK by reducing image-harming discounts, boosting vehicle sales and creating a positive relationship with dealers.

Jackson will try to continue the success when she, the first Brit and the first woman to lead Citroen, takes the controls of the French brand on June 1.

After she became Citroen's UK and Ireland managing director for Citroen in 2010 Jackson boosted profitability by cracking down on the heavily promoted discounts that were hurting residual values.

"We’re no longer king of the cashbacks," she told me in an interview last year.

The cutback on discounts did not harm the brand's volume. Citroen's UK sales were up 11 percent to 101,778 vehicles last year compared with the year she started as market boss.

Jackson shut down unprofitable fleet deals and instead focused on private sales using personal contract purchase (PCP) finance. This produces attractive monthly payment figures that defer a chunk of the payment to the end of the contract, which can be beneficial to both the buyer and the seller. Last year 85 percent of Citroen DS3 buyers picked this option.

Jackson’s bosses in Paris surely would have noticed the effect this had on sales of Citroen’s upscale DS subbrand. Last year UK buyers purchased 20,480 DS3s, just 3,000 below the number sold in France and nearly quadruple the UK’s 2010 figure. By contrast just 6,558 DS3s were sold in Germany last year. DS demand also wasn’t cannibalizing sales of Citroen’s less-expensive model lines as 65 percent of DS3 buyers were new to the brand, Jackson told me.

During our meetings Jackson, 55, came across as deeply knowledgeable about all aspects of selling cars. This makes sense given her background. She worked as European finance director for MG Rover before moving to the same role at Citroen UK. She was part of Citroen’s finance team at headquarters in France before being promoted to lead the brand in the UK.

Jackson also is very connected to her dealers in the UK. She oversaw their rebranding and understood that much of Citroen’s revival depended on her retailers’ profitability and their ability to reinvest that money into things such as better marketing.

The British and French often have their differences, but Jackson is obviously a Francophile. She has a holiday home in Normandy, northern France, and has many years experience working in the country. She brings knowledge of a successful British approach to car buying and a sharp eye for finance to the Citroen brand's top job. She should do very well for new PSA CEO Carlos Tavares.

You can reach Nick Gibbs at ngibbs@crain.com.

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