The two-letters and two-numbers cypher for a forthcoming 3.98 m long crossover will give way to the perhaps confusing name of C3. The brand already has a small car called exactly that but the CC21 C3 is a different vehicle entirely.

One C3 for Europe, another for India & Brazil

CC21 has the new-look front of the latest C4, plus roof bars, wheel-arch extensions and long-travel suspension with 180 mm of ground clearance. The last of these features is especially important for India, where some 40 per cent of the country’s 5.5 million kilometres of roads are unsurfaced.

Officially revealed earlier on 16 September, the tall-small hatchback will be manufactured in Brazil at Stellantis’ Porto Real plant.

CK Birla, the OEM’s partner for India, will also make the car at its Thiruvallur factory in Chennai. This, the former Hindustan Motors facility, is the same site which assembled Mitsubishi models.

Battling the Maruti Swift

Vincent Cobée believes that the fresh venture in the notoriously tough Indian market is the right strategy. The C3’s length is also mandated by the need to slip below a tax threshold which applies to vehicles longer than four metres.

The C5 Aircross was the first locally assembled Citroën (50 sold in Aug and 171 YtD) for the brand’s push into India. Next, the C3 will take the marque into a more mainstream part of the market.

The B segment is where the existing big players – Suzuki of course, but also Hyundai-Kia and to a lesser extent Tata and Mahindra – are strong. The Maruti Suzuki Swift is the best selling five-door car in this class, followed by the same OEM’s Baleno.

Two more ‘robust personality’ models by 2024

Why does Citroën’s chief executive think the brand can succeed when even the mighty Volkswagen Group struggles? Not to mention Ford throwing in the towel after failing to make much headway producing cars in the Indian market over the last 27 years.

“This is not just about the C5 Aircross or even the new C3. We have a strategy of launching three international models by 2024. The C3 is the first”, he notes. “It was developed with the specific needs of customers not only in India but in Brazil and South America”.

The platform selected for CC21 is “an evolution of CMP”. Given that this small vehicles architecture developed by Groupe PSA and Dongfeng Motor is also available in eCMP form (electric Peugeot 208 etc..), will the C3 also be?

“Potentially yes”, says Cobée. But with a caveat. “India in 2022 will be a market where electrification becomes a must. Whether the demand will be there, that is another thing”.

China, the USA, India

Stellantis sees India becoming the world’s number three market by 2025, crossing the four-million mark and overtaking Japan. B segment hatchbacks comprise 23 per cent of the passenger vehicles sold there today. It isn’t just about having the right-sized cars though.

Examples of how Citroën will do things in unusual ways – there is a hint that all unnecessary cost has already been eliminated – include what Cobée terms “nomadic” service technicians.

The concept of ‘workshops on wheels’ is intended to replace what would otherwise be a lot of expense needed to erect servicing outlets and, it is presumed, large numbers of dealerships. As the brand is already successful in Brazil and other parts of the South American region, the strategy for that region is already in place.

Why go with a partner when Stellantis could have built a greenfield factory? “When you introduce a vehicle in India you need to be nimble and flexible. We saw the opportunity to invest in a brownfield factory partnership. But that isn’t the whole story. We must walk before we run but we must walk fast”.

The CC21 series C3 will become available during the first half of 2022 (Citroën is yet to say when exactly, nor has it communicated engine details). Similarly, there is no news on whether or not there will be exports from India. Cars built in Brazil will also be supplied to regional markets such as Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, Peru and Ecuador.