The C5 Aircross compact SUV will lead Citroen's entry into the Indian market, followed by three vehicles from a new range developed specifically for India and other emerging markets.
The C5 Aircross, introduced in Europe in 2018, was chosen because it is Citroen's "flagship" model, and will serve as a way to introduce the brand to India, Citroen CEO Linda Jackson said.
The SUV will be built in India as a knock-down kit and will go on sale next year. Prices will be disclosed later this year, Jackson said. The C5 Aircross starts at about 25,000 euros in France.
"It embodies all the values of Citroen," the CEO said of the C5 Aircross. "It will make an impact."
The C5 Aircross will be followed by three models from PSA's new range for emerging markets, called "C Cubed," which was developed at PSA's European and Indian research centers, PSA Carlos Tavares said when he attended Citroen's India launch in Chennai on Wednesday with Jackson.
The first vehicle will appear in 2021, followed by two more, in 2022 and 2023. If successful, the vehicles will be sold in other global markets. The three C's in the program's name stand for Cool, Comfort and Clever.
"It's very much oriented toward emerging and overseas markets," Tavares said. He declined to give any more details about the models.
C Cubed may be used in other regions and other brands, but it's been "focused on Citroen from Day 1." Tavares said.
Tavares said he expected C Cubed would be a "significant asset" for PSA, but he and Jackson deflected comparisons to low-cost Renault models such as the Kwid, which also target the same markets.
PSA has set a goal of increasing sales outside of Europe by 50 percent by 2021. Following the acquisition of Opel/Vauxhall in 2017, and with Chinese sales slumping, PSA sold about 80 percent of its cars in Europe in 2018. This year, Tavares announced that Citroen would focus on India, Peugeot would lead the group's re-entry into North America and Opel would begin sales in Russia.
PSA is building its presence in India, the world's fourth-largest automotive market, though two partnerships with the CK Birla Group, one for powertrain manufacturing and one for assembly. PSA Avtec Powertrain has already started production and exporting transmissions to Europe, Tavares said.
"The intention is to use India as a sourcing hub for parts for India and the rest of the world, leveraging the competitiveness of the supplier base," Tavares said. Citroen's models will eventually be 90 percent locally sourced, he said, whether from Indian suppliers, joint ventures or Indian divisions of foreign companies.
The assembly plant, which is being renovated and repurposed for PSA's coming models, has a capacity to produce 75,000 vehicles a year, Tavares said.
The use of India as an export hub and of a "brownfield" assembly plant were done to ensure that PSA's investment is self-sustaining, he said. "We have a scalable business model that ensures you stay in the black with each step of business development," he said, noting that PSA was using the same strategy for Peugeot's return to the U.S.
Both Tavares and Jackson declined to give a sales target or offer specifics on which segments Citroen plans to compete in. "We're at the heart of the market, not the most expensive, not the least," Jackson said. The most popular models in India are small hatchbacks and crossovers, with just four brands -- Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai Motors India, Mahindra and Mahindra, and Tata -- controlling more than 80 percent of the market.
Tavares said the Indian market was "challenging," with a number of foreign manufacturers having failed to dent the dominance of local brands. "This being said, we have been working on this plan for the next three years, so we're just getting the job done and coming to the market," he said. "Since we're committed to the long term it doesn't matter if we're entering the market on a peak or low point."