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Carmakers need clarity on Brexit, warns Citroën CEO

The UK’s car market won’t recover from last year’s sales slump until manufacturers are given a clear view about the direction of Brexit, Citroën CEO Linda Jackson has warned.

Linda Jackson, CEO, Citroën

Linda Jackson says consumer confidence is more important than what politicians decide

Jackson told Fleet World that she believes Britain leaving the EU next year is producing instability, whether it be in interest rates for people importing vehicles, month-on-month declines in volume, or causing a lack of consumer confidence. She also believes that the situation won’t improve until manufacturers get some clarity about where they’re going.

“You can always buy volume, but it’s a very, very silly process, because you need to respect your residual values. So we will manage the UK market; it’s fifth, it was third and I want it to be third again – but we have to be careful. Once we know where we’re going, we will have stability – a hard Brexit or a soft Brexit, we have strategies within the group for both. Until we know what it’s going to be, it’s a difficult situation.

“We’re not going to abandon the UK as it’s an important piece of the mix. To be honest it’s not what the politicians do, it’s what the customers do and it’s all about consumer confidence.”

Jackson said demonisation of diesel was also playing a role, but that Citroën hadn’t seen a decline in fleet demand yet, because decisions are made on total cost of ownership, and diesel still makes business sense. Although, Jackson added that some of the larger companies are starting to say they’d like a proportion of their fleet with electric power – alongside diesel.

Jackson’s concern now is that media negativity could mean it becomes impossible for the market to fully recover, and whether fleets will accept plug-in alternatives.

“For manufacturers, we can’t dictate the solution, we can only provide what the customer wants. We’ve decided we’re going to have diesel, petrol, PHEV and electric. They’re the ones we’ve got on the table right now until 2019 for the group. We’re having to manage all of those, as there’s no clear view of where we’re going to end up. You’ve got to be agile, like the move from diesel to petrol – that’s happened in four years, it’s a massive change.”

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Martyn Collins

Martyn has 18 years experience as a motoring journalist, working across a wide selection of B2B and consumer titles. A car enthusiast since his early years, Martyn has a particular interest in the latest models and technology and in his spare time enjoys driving his own Minis.