Monday 10 December 2018

IM group planning to expand import portfolio

HIGH END: The Citroen DS4
HIGH END: The Citroen DS4

Campbell Spray

The conglomerate that took over the import of Citroen and DS cars here may well extend its profile of imported brands in the future. The UK-based IM group already has the franchise for Subaru and the Chinese brand Great Wall, whose Steed pick-up vehicle has just gone on the market here.

IM's Irish managing director Chris Graham said that many manufacturers are moving away from small markets and are looking at companies like his to handle their products.

The IM group - which has business interests ranging from real estate to construction and import companies in the US, Europe and Asia - is no stranger to Ireland.

It has imported Subaru for 30 years and also handles that brand, Isuzu and Great Wall in the UK. It used to represent Hyundai in the UK, and is the agent for Daihatsu parts.

It is in contact with a number of motoring interests here and abroad at present.

"We are on the acquisition trail globally and we are open for talks with private importers, and sometimes manufacturers also approach us," Mr Graham said at the launch of the new DS4 hatchback and Crossback models, which are now on sale.

The new MD said he plans to add five new dealers to the current 20-strong line-up.

"We are aiming for graduated, sustainable growth, no boom'n'bust. We are prepared to take early financial pain - short-term pain for long-term gain."

The DS brand has not been target-marketed for about 18 months and a big budget is planned for this year. The DS5 has been the leader in the market for the brand here and a DS3 model will follow by mid-year. Stocks within the franchise have been more than doubled to 1,600 vehicles in anticipation of growth in sales.

Being a challenger brand in the premium segment of the market is always a tough task, even if that market is heading upwards, but the DS range, which is the luxury side of the Citroen brand in the giant PSA Peugeot Citroen family, gets the full treatment in terms of styling, equipment levels and financial offers.

The DS4 comes with two body styles, a coupé-style hatchback and a Crossback design that marketing director Louise Murphy says is not an SUV, but which has crossover styling and raised height.

The new offerings in the family hatchback market have distinctive exterior styling with a strong grille and a cabin with premium quality materials. Unfortunately, space is tight in the rear and, the rear windows are fixed, which is a drawback for passengers - although air conditioning is standard in all models.

The models feature Apple CarPlay and a new seven-inch colour touchscreen that gives easy access to navigation and music, with 12 fewer buttons on the console. It is designed to include new Mirror Link technology that duplicates Android or iOS smartphone content on the in-car screen. There is also a reversing camera, keyless entry and blindspot monitoring.

There are four engines on offer, starting with the international engine of the year last year, the petrol PureTech 130bhp with 119g/km of C02 emissions, costing €26,995 in entry Elegance trim. The best-selling model is expected to be the highly economical diesel BlueHDi 120 with 103g/km of CO2, priced at €30,995. There is also a BlueHDi 150 at €34,995. Crossback prices range from €30,495 to €34,395.

The DS4 drives well and looks good, but when competing with entry-level Audi, BMW and Mercedes models at similar prices, DS has a big job in swinging attention away from the established brands if for no other reason than the comparative residual values. - MARTIN BRENNAN

Sunday Independent

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