PARIS - Citroen will launch its hot-selling Picasso compact minivan in China. Assembly will start at the end of 2000 in the DCAC plant in Wuhan, Hubei province, in central China.
DCAC is a joint venture established by Citroen and the Chinese car and truckmaker Dong Feng Motors.
Citroen has just raised its stake in DCAC equity by E137 million to finance future investment.
'We are entering the final straight [in the preparations to launch the Picasso in China],' said a Citroen official in Paris. Production will start with kits imported from Vigo, Spain, where the Picasso is built.
Sales will start in May 2001. Citroen plans to sell 10,000 Picassos a year in China, mainly in big cities located on the eastern coast of the country, where customers want modern, western-style vehicles. The percentage of private, individual buyers - as opposed to taxis and government fleets -is also greater in the east.
The Chinese Picasso will include engineering changes made for the model due to be launched next year in Brazil. The changes apply mainly to handling, suspension and ventilation, to cope with the road and climate conditions in sub-tropical areas. In early 2001, PSA/Peugeot-Citroen will open a new plant near Rio de Janeiro where the Picasso and Peugeot 206 will be made.
Citroen still has to decide which engine will power the Chinese car, an issue that depends on the level of local content necessary for the Picasso. DCAC makes a 1.6-liter gasoline engine in its Xiangfan plant, 400km from Wuhan.
DCAC sold 44,300 units in 1999 and plans to sell about 55,000 this year. Its main product is the Fukang, based on Citroen's ZX lower-medium hatchback, which was replaced in western Europe by the Xsara in 1997. The Fukang appears in two-box and three-box body styles; the two-box makes up two-thirds of sales. The Fukang should be replaced in late 2003 by the successor to the Xsara.