Citroën to enter SA taxi market

Citroën SA is entering the South African market for minibus taxis

Citroën to enter SA taxi market
Citroen Minibus Taxi

Citroën SA is entering the South African market for minibus taxis after a lengthy period spent researching this important segment and setting up a strategy to become a significant player – with a range of 15-, 16- and 19-seater Relay buses.

“We are already encouraged with our success in the 2012 government tender and have, to date, supplied 45 diesel-engined 16- and 19-seater minibuses to government agencies including the SA Police Service, Legal Aid and Water Affairs,” says National Fleet and Business-to-Business manager, Khyl Reddy.

“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.

"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,” added Reddy.

The Relay panel vans are manufactured in Italy and then shipped to Citroën in France, which in turn exports them to South Africa. Bustruck Conversions converts them according to the SA Government regulations for minibus taxis by fitting windows, strengthened floor, seat belts, seats and radios.

All models have air bags for the driver and front passenger.

The 15- and 16-seater models are powered by 2.2-litre engines, while the 19-seater is fitted with a 3-litre power unit. The 15-seater has a five-speed manual gearbox with a 6-speed transmission fitted to the 16- and 19-seater models.

Prices range from R305 900 for the 15-seater to R369 900 for the long-haul 19-seater. The 16-seater is priced at R315 900.

All models have a five-year/100 000km service plan with a three-year/100 000km warranty. Servicing is required every 20 000km.

The three Citroën Relay minibuses have been homologated by the SA Bureau of Standards (SABS) and been evaluated by the Independent Transport Advisory Service (ITAS) on behalf of the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco).

The Citroën Relay buses are currently in the process of receiving a scoring on the ITAS evaluation, which is supported by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

A number of vehicles with the fuel-saving stop-start facility will arrive in South Africa in the second quarter of 2013 for evaluation by the taxi industry on 16-seaters used on short-haul routes.

The stop-start facility will be an optional extra at about R5 000.

“We will provide special training on this system, which not only cuts fuel usage, but also harmful emissions, so it has major environmental benefits and is a first for a minibus taxi in South Africa,” said Reddy.

Citroën SA has linked up with Taxi Choice as a finance and insurance provider. It is also offering its vehicles through the Rent 2 Own programme, which is operated by Absa Bank. Taxi Rent 2 Own Company allows the buyer to finance the vehicle at a much lower interest rate, low insurance premium, minimal extras and monthly savings.

This programme requires the fitment of tracking and monitoring systems, and Reddy and the team are looking to tie up a deal with a national institution for a system that incorporates a cellphone. Timing for this project is the second quarter of 2013.

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 warehouse in Linbro Park, which covers 8 500m2 in area and holds stock valued at R38 million. Parts are delivered up to four times a day to Gauteng dealers and within 24 hours to other areas. The first-time parts picking rate is currently an excellent 92%.

“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,” concluded Reddy.

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