For Citroen to have a fighting chance with its new Creta rival, the SUV should have a sub-Rs 10 lakh pricing. But will that be enough?
To say that ‘value’ can make or break a product in India would be stating the obvious. But the term ‘value’ is relative. For some, it would mean strong fundamentals, like a good powertrain or comfortable suspension, while for others it could mean getting maximum bang for their buck in terms of features and other modern niceties. The challenge for any car manufacturer is to get that balance right – a mix of sound mechanicals and aspirational features go a long way in making buyers feel they are getting their money’s worth.
Let’s take Citroen’s example, as I recently reviewed the Citroen C3 Aircross and the car left me with mixed feelings. While I absolutely love the way it drives and I appreciate the flexibility of seven seats, its poverty-stricken features list and the lack of an automatic have put me off. In my opinion, the French carmaker needs to try harder to make Indian buyers feel special and catch their fancy, rather than adopting a no-frills approach.
But let’s look at it from Citroen’s perspective – the company has heavily invested in India and has achieved over 90 percent localisation, so there’s a lot riding on the C3 Aircross’ shoulders. With the premium C5 Aircross barely managing double-digit sales and the C3’s petrol and EV variants combined selling around 1,000 units per month, the company is banking on the C3 Aircross to take the brand to the masses and churn volumes. In its quest to achieve cost-efficiency and maximise profitability, it seems like the company has gone a step too far with blatant cost-cutting, which could seriously hamper the fate of this car. Is it really that difficult or expensive to offer power-folding mirrors, have power window switches in their conventional position, or have a key that doesn’t make you feel like you’ve bought a budget hatchback? Buyers deserve better than this.
However, all these cut corners could be forgiven if Citroen manages to price the C3 Aircross aggressively. For example, its Max variant (top-spec) needs to undercut the second-to-base variants of a Maruti Grand Vitara, Hyundai Creta and Kia Seltos, all of which are priced in the ballpark of Rs 12 lakh. In my opinion, only then does the company stand a chance to make buyers sit up and take notice, and drive footfall to the 60-odd dealerships across the country. Even then, the Citroen might not win any popularity contest, as it is going up against some serious and well-established players, however, having a seven-seater option, a strong turbo-petrol engine and relatively better equipment than the said variants of its rivals, will certainly put it in a better position to compete.
We also hear whispers that the company could introduce a base variant below the one we’ve tested, which could be called ‘You’. It is likely to be stripped of features such as alloys, reverse camera, rear wiper and washer and fog lamps, among others. This variant will possibly put Citroen in a better position to create a stir in the segment by pricing it lower than the starting price of rivals – a sub-10 lakh pricing, perhaps.
If Citroen really wants to taste success in the market, and even compete in the midsize SUV space, its pricing needs to be between Rs 9.99 lakh-11.50 lakh, ex-showroom. While this is just my rough guesstimate, we’ll have to wait till prices are officially announced in September 2023, to know how serious Citroen is about India.