Citroën's Australian importer, Ateco Automotive, is taking over distribution of the French car maker's models in New Zealand from 1 March, and has promised to lift the brand's profile and sales there.

Citroën's previous distributor sold 202 cars in New Zealand during 2006 (in a market of around 75,000 units) and Ateco plans to lift this to 500 units by the end of 2008, its first full year in control of the brand, thanks to a mix of sharper prices, new models and an expanded dealer network.

Ateco has distributed Citroen in Australia for 10 years. It already handles Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Maserati in both Australia and New Zealand.

"We believe that we can produce the same levels of growth for Citroën in New Zealand by combining the buying power we have with both markets and using everything we have learnt about Citroën in Australia," said Neville Crichton, the governing director of Ateco Automotive.

The first new model for New Zealand on Ateco's watch will be the new seven-seat C4 Picasso minivan. Ateco also plans to launch the Berlingo light van which has been a success in Australia. It will also add the C6 car flagship to the NZ line as a 'halo' model that demonstrates the brand's technology and design advances.

Ateco will also bring the New Zealand model range into line with Australia's, enabling both markets to benefit from the combined buying power provided by combined sales of around 5,000 vehicles.

Ateco Automotive NZ will add extra dealers in the large cities of Auckland and Christchurch and improve facilities and customer support across the country. Additional staff will be recruited for the Auckland headquarters.