Julien Montarnal, Director, Marketing, Communication & Sport, Citroen

On the sidelines of the 2014 Paris Motor Show, Citroen Director of Marketing, Communication & Sport, Julien Montarnal discusses PSA's new DS premium brand, the Ciroen C4 Cactus and strategies, and P1 hyper car and prospects for emerging markets.

GM: What is Citroen’s brand position within PSA. It seems to have been placed as the more mainstream of the two brands in recent years, yet the group’s flagship luxury car is the Citroen C6?

JM: Historically Peugeot and Citroen (PSA Group) were competing on the same segments. Lately, there was a clarification [of] the positioning of each brand. DS [initially part of Citroen] was a success [with] more than 500,000 sales – since 2010. [It] helped us attract new customers to the brand. Two out of three DS customers were new to Citroen. We think DS is a wonderful opportunity to mark the return of French carmakers within the premium car market. This is why today DS is becoming a standalone brand with the ambition to become an alternative to the established premium brands. [Regarding Peugeot], the idea is that they try to move up in value. As far as Citroen is concerned – without DS – we are a mainstream car maker. Our positioning for Citroen is to make the brand even stronger… by focusing on our DNA… [of] bringing creativity and technology… for the well-being of our customers. It means that our cars are… more comfortable than their direct competitors [and] that this comfort goes beyond the physical comfort. It’s also a psychological comfort…, that the whole brand experience… must be smooth [and] serene.GM: Are we going to be seeing exclusive DS cars, rather than off-shoots of existing Citroen cars, and will the Citroen C6’s replacement be a DS brand car?

JM: There will be two separated product plans for DS [and] Citroen. The Divine concept car shows clearly the stylistic direction [for] DS. The division… does not mean that we will split the segments between the two of us. There can be a D-segment for DS… But there can also be a Citroen car in the D-segment, especially because our key strategic regions are Europe and China, and D-segment for mainstream car makers is key in China. A DS car is supposed to bring refinement, and this Parisian style and luxury, whereas the Citroen… must provide this feel-good factor. It means the cars will be different, but there is space for both brands… in the same segments.

GM: Citroen has always been a great innovator. What is next for the brand?

JM: If you take the C4 Cactus (currently launching in Europe), you can see that we are true to our innovative history. You have a lot of world premiers on the C4 Cactus. First is Air Bump… [which] protects your car against everyday shocks and scratches [idea inspired by smart phone covers]. Another world premier on this car is that we are the first ones to put the passenger airbag in the roof. By doing this… you can have a lot of free space in front of the passenger… plus you have larger space to store your items… Innovation is still in the genes of the brand. But we are not focusing on complicated innovations, we are focusing on technological innovations that make your life easier.

GM: Falling European sales have affected European brands in recent years, but Renault seems to have been more immune due to a greater focus on emerging markets. Is Citroen now looking east and south in terms of product development and sales?

JM: Internationalization is a key aspect of our strategy. Ten years ago we sold less than two cars out of ten outside of Europe. Now, it’s more than four cars… Our internationalization is well under way… now for instance one Citroen out of four is sold in China. China actually became our first market, in front of France.

GM: When did this happen?

JM: Last year. We are benefiting from very strong growth in China. Since the beginning of the year our sales increased 19% in China, in a market that was up 12%… We are also producing cars locally in Russia…, Brazil and Argentina that are also success for growth outside of Europe. And we are also doing good in Europe…, growing at 10% in a market that is growing 7% (since the beginning of the year).

GM: What is Citroen’s brand and sales strategy for the Middle East and perhaps Jordan in particular?

JM: We just reorganized the group [by] dividing the world into six geographical regions. One of the zones is now specifically for the Middle East and Africa. Part of the reason is to be more proactive.

GM: Citroen’s association with WRC has been spectacularly successful in recent years. Will this filter through to the road car range with more sporting models?

JM: We are currently engaged in two championships. We are participating in WRC with the DS3, and we just engaged – a few months ago – within the WTCC with our C-Elysee… We said at the beginning [that] we’ll give ourselves one year to learn, and actually we’ve gone beyond our craziest expectations, because we are currently leading in the car maker’s championship and drivers’ championship. We are very excited about our performance in this championship, which happens to have a lot of races in key regions for us, Russia, China and Latin America.