Citroën enters the taxi market

Citroën enters the taxi market

The local taxi market is about to benefit from a major injection of healthy competition – and it’s going to drive operators directly to Citroën dealers.

 

There is a new player in the local minibus taxi market, and it is French! Citroën South Africa is entering the market (after a lengthy period spent researching this important local segment) and is setting up a strategy to become a significant player, with a range of 15-, 16- and 19-seater Relay buses.

Following encouraging success in the 2012 government tender and having supplied 45 diesel-engined 16- and 19-seater minibuses to government agencies to date – including the South African Police Service, Legal Aid and Water Affairs – the company feels the time is right to extend its reach even further.

Says national fleet and business-to-business manager, Khyl Reddy: “We are not rushing into what we know is a complicated segment of the market, but believe we have done our homework and are now ready to put our plans into action. We are expecting to sell many more vehicles via the government tender and are aiming to sell about 1 000 minibuses in South Africa this year.”

Citroën enters the taxi marketManufactured in Italy, the vans are shipped to Citroën in France, which in turn exports them to South Africa. Bustruck Conversions adapts them in line with South African Government regulations for minibus taxis by fitting windows, a strengthened floor, seats with seat belts, and radios. Importantly, all models have driver and front passenger airbags.

The three models that will be offered have been homologated by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) and been evaluated by the Independent Transport Advisory Service (ITAS) on behalf of the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco). Citroën SA is currently awaiting a scoring on the ITAS evaluation, which is supported by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

Pricing will start at R305 900 for the 15-seater, moving to R315 900 for the 16-seater, with the long-haul 19-seater coming in at R369 900. Citroën SA has linked up with finance and insurance provider Taxi Choice. It is also offering its vehicles through the “Taxi Rent 2 Own” programme which is operated by
Absa Bank.

This scheme allows prospective buyers to finance the vehicle at a much lower than normal interest rate, with low insurance premiums, minimal additional costs and greater monthly savings. It requires the fitment of tracking and monitoring systems, with Citroën SA looking to implement a deal with a national institution for a system that incorporates a cellphone. Timing for this part of the project is the second quarter of 2013.

Citroën enters the taxi marketThe 15- and 16-seater models are powered by 2,2-litre engines, while the 19-seater is fitted with a three-litre unit. A five-speed manual gearbox is offered on the 15-seater while the other two models benefit from six-speed manuals. An impressive part of this project is that a number of 16-seater vehicles with the fuel-saving stop-start facility will be offered to the taxi industry for evaluation during the second quarter of the year. This will be then offered as an optional extra costing about R5 000.

“We will provide special training on this system which cuts fuel usage and harmful emissions – so it has major environmental benefits and is a first for a minibus taxi in South Africa,” said Reddy.

Of course, Citroën SA also knows that after-sales service and back-up is paramount to a successful transport operation. All models therefore have a five-year/100 000 km service plan with a three-year/100 000 km warranty. Servicing is required every 20 000 km.

“We are very aware of the high expectations of taxi operators and their need to keep downtime to a minimum and believe that with the excellent quality of our Relay minibuses and a tried and tested after-sales back-up system, we are now ideally placed to become an increasingly significant player in this market,”
says Reddy.

Citroën enters the taxi marketFurther, all Citroën dealers, of which there are currently 20 nationwide (with plans to grow this total to 30 in 2014), have service facilities that accommodate the Relay. They are backed up by a state-of-the-art 8 500 m2 warehouse in Linbro Park, Johannesburg, that holds stock valued at R38 million. This allows parts to be delivered up to four times a day to Gauteng dealers, and within 24 hours to other areas. And, with a first-time parts picking rate currently an excellent 92 percent, owners and operators can rest assured that there will be the service backup and parts availability to keep their new taxis on the road.

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