Yes, Citroën is looking at Datsun, or rather a clever plan that the revived Japanese brand never really implemented. Prior to launching in India, Datsun had an innovative plan to market made-to-order cars in India. The idea was for customers to order cars specced exactly how they wanted, so if you desired a fully loaded car but without rear power windows, you could have that.
And rather than have an expensive factory tailored programme do this, Datsun planned to have the factory churn out standard models to be shipped to four to five regional warehouse-workshops. From here, they would be fitted out according to a customer order and then shipped onward to the dealer. The plan, however, was not implemented completely and Datsun offered features packs instead of an à la carte approach.
But why do I think Citroën may offer the à la carte model? For starters, it was the car unveiled. Typically, these are top-end models and if that were the case, apart from the neat 10.1-inch touchscreen, it was fairly low spec, showing manually adjustable ORVMs and no rear wash-wipe system, among others. And then, Laurence Hansen, Citroën’s product and strategy director, said the company would offer lots of features like remote locking through the accessory route.
Another bit was the integrated phone clamp and wire routing, which positions your phone nice and high with the screen facing you. Thus, like Datsun, Citroën could offer a car with just an amplifier and speakers while your phone is the media player and interface. Another incidental, but pertinent point is that Vincent Cobée, Citroën’s CEO, was formerly the Datsun chief and the man who many say was behind the à la carte plan. So, things do point to a Datsun plan and, if done right, it does have merit for Citroën today.
Citroën has very few dealers here, around 11, way off what’s required to cater to the mass segment the C3 is aimed at. And Cobée made it clear that the company will not go down a mad aggressive expansion spree but would rather aim for customer satisfaction and then scale accordingly. So its direct-to-customer online sales model – what it already has in place – is what the company can rely on to increase reach, and voila, offer an à la carte model.
Having to order your car online means you’ve already accepted a waiting period, which Citroën can use to customise your car. Plus, thanks to the chip shortage, waiting periods are a norm today. And then compared to the time when Datsun launched, customers are today far more receptive to the online sales model, buying all sorts of things, from vegetables to scooters and cars over the net. So yes, Citroën’s current set-up of a handful of dealers, market conditions where waiting periods are the norm, and customers who are willing to buy over the net, can all help it successfully offer the C3 à la carte.