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April 9, 2010

BRAZIL: PSA reveals ‘off road’ Citroen C3 Picasso, eyes popular car segment

Citroën Brazil this week released first photos of its new C3 Picasso-based Aircross 'monovolume' model which will soon go into production at PSA's Porto Real, Rio de Janeiro state plant ahead of a launch scheduled for next August. Meanwhile, PSA CEO Philippe Varin has hinted the automaker may enter Brazil's one-litre 'popular car' segment.

Citroën Brazil this week released first photos of its new C3 Picasso-based Aircross ‘monovolume’ model which will soon go into production at PSA’s Porto Real, Rio de Janeiro state plant ahead of a launch scheduled for next August. Meanwhile, PSA CEO Philippe Varin has hinted the automaker may enter Brazil’s one-litre ‘popular car’ segment.

‘Urban-off-road’ versions of Aircross type of vehicle have sold well here in Brazil and neighbouring markets in the last few years and there are numerous B- and C-segment size rivals.

There has been no official announcement yet, but it is likely the Aircross will also be exported to Europe in 2011 to be sold alongside the more conventionally styled, locally-produced, C3 Picasso MPV on which the Aircross is based.

Citroen Brazil created the compact SUV look in a way now routine for Brazilian automakers: add running boards and one-piece longitudinal aluminium roof bars and hang the spare wheel on the tail door.

Other ‘adventure formula’ details include chrome rear view mirror housings, exclusive light alloy wheels and mixed use tyres. Citroën has not confirmed technical specifications, but the photos suggest ride height has also been raised, another common tweak in this growing sub-segment.

All these changes will certainly mean Citroen sells the Aircross at a higher price than the conventional C3 Picasso expected on sale here next year though it may not be called that in South America.

PSA Peugeot Citroën recently announced a new, $800m investment in Brazil to launch new models for both brands and boost vehicle and engine production capacity by 2012.

When visiting Brazil recently, PSA group CEO Philippe Varin would not reveal too many specific details of the investment to just-auto. When questioned, he referred only to the investment being needed for “strategic reasons” and insisted PSA had “total confidence” it would continue to expand sales in Brazil “in coming years”.

He also made clear he was aware competitive pricing was essential for an automaker to achieve high volumes here.

Closing a press conference, Varin hinted PSA was also eyeing the hard-fought one-litre ‘popular car’ segment.

“We are asking ourselves how best to enter the most affordable cars segment, nicknamed ‘popular’ here,” he concluded.

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