Citroën’s Australian importer, Ateco Automotive Pty Ltd, has been named the French car maker’s top distributor world-wide.

The annual award is presented to the Citroën distributor that has achieved the highest level of customer satisfaction, meeting sales, dealer development and long term growth and development targets.

Ateco, headed by New Zealander Neville Crichton, took over distribution of Citroën ‘down under’ 10 years ago when, despite 70 years in Australia, the brand was at its lowest ebb, with just one version of one model on sale.

Since then, it has grown the brand by an average of 50% a year and radically enlarged the range, taking Citroën into market sectors it had not previously contested, while developing a dealer network that has expanded in line with the sales growth in Australia.

Ateco sells Citroen’s C2, C3, C3 Pluriel, Xsara, C5 and Berlingo and will launch the C4 and revamped C5 next year.

The Berlingo took Citroën, which is known for good commercial vehicles in Europe, into the Australian LCV market for the first time with a vehicle whose success has spurred rival manufacturers to launch competitors. The C2 and C3 pitched the brand into the small car sector for the first time and the C5’s advanced diesels have driven acceptance of this technology in Australia, where big petrol sixes and V8s are still the preferred weapons of choice for long-distance driving in remote terrain.

Ateco said that Citroën’s advanced service and parts technology, with a ‘Proxia’ computer that enables it to “remote service” cars anywhere in the country from the Sydney headquarters, and the Laser computer system speeding parts and reducing service times, has lead the local motor industry in the introduction of such technology. The quality of Ateco’s training facilities has led the French firm to base training for the entire local region there.

DriveEurope, the scheme that enables Australian tourists to lease a new Citroën in Europe from $A33.00 a day, has proven an outstanding success, to the point where Ateco claims to lease more cars to tourists in Europe than any other Citroën importer.