Buying a Citroën or Chevrolet: Is it worth the risk in SA?

'Fundamentally good cars, at bargain prices, with the promise of support... but are exiting brands worth the hazard?' asks Lance Branquinho.

Cape Town - To quote one of the greatest investors, Warren Buffet, "one should be greedy when others are fearful". Apply that logic to the South African new car market and there is plenty of opportunity to be daring.

With General Motors and Citroën both exiting the local market this year, there are tantalising good deals to be had on remaining Chevrolet inventory being flushed out of the dealer network.

Citroën has sold the last of its remaining cars, but what about a pre-owned low mileage Cactus? Is that a good idea?

Why go Chevrolet?

Value. Firstly. If you are willing to take the risk buying one of the remaining Chevrolets from a dealer, they have no negotiating power and you do.

READ: Chrysler, Dodge will 'no longer be available locally'

The margin to negotiate a massive discount on Trailblazers, Captivas and Cruzes is there for those who willing to be bold. Ignore what’s listed online, it’s optimistic price fetching – visit a dealership and profit from the desperation that is real. 

Once you’ve bought your bargain Chevrolet, there’s the issue of ensuring that it will run – for a while. Chevrolet has also committed to provide parts availability for a decade post vehicle production, therefore you should be covered for the reasonable life-cycle of your purchase. But…

Given Citroen and Chevrolet's exit from SA - how likely are you to purchase one of their vehicles locally? Tell us why

                                                                     Image: Quickpic

Why not…

The interesting bit about Chevrolet’s South African departure is warranty and servicing. If you’ve sold a great many expensive products to thousands of customers, the consumer protection act doesn’t simply let you pack up and leave in the middle of the night. 

Officially, General Motors policy is that Isuzu will provide service support to Chevrolet customers in South Africa, although this will be influenced by the new dealer network, which is being shrunk. Isuzu’s priority will surely be its bakkie customers, whilst acquiring new business. Quite how keen these ‘bakkie’ dealerships will be to service your Chevrolet remain to be seen.  

That said, demand will always trigger innovation, and with so many Chevrolets without ‘official’ dealerships to service them, you can be assured that specialists will seize the opportunity and set-up shop.

Many people in South Africa own Chevrolet products and if you join that market – admittedly late, at a massive discount – there’s a certain safety in the scale of it all. With thousands of cars to service and maintain, a supply chain scenario is sure to establish itself. 

The French connection

If you’re bargain hunting for something with a bit more panache than a Chevrolet, Citroën is the other option. Again, listed pre-owned pricing is optimistic, with extremely cheeky offers sure to deliver a transaction price way below what is being offered.

Impressively equipped, and daring design, a Citroën has notable appeal to those urbanites who still value owning their own transport solution as opposed to Ubering everywhere. But what about the risk?

The case for a Citroën ownership proposition is in some ways superior to that of Chevrolet. In terms of structure, Citroën is a sibling brand of the PSA group’s Peugeot, with the two brands sharing a huge percentage of parts commonality.

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Peugeot is remaining in South Africa, with its established dealer network, which means that futureproofing for your Citroën is quite a bit better than a Chevrolet. The PSA group’s policy is that all warrantee and servicing agreements will be honoured for Citroëns. Layered on this is the security of most mechanical service items being in stock and available, because the under-the-skin bits of Peugeots and Citroëns are essentially exchangeable. 

Risk? Bodywork.

Citroën’s artistic designs require some rather unique panels and light clusters, which aren’t always the same as Peugeot, hence you might have some delay getting your Citroën repaired after an accident. 

Is defunct a deal?

It’s always sad to see a brand quit a market, but South Africans have been through this all before, with Seat. And you do still see a fair amount of those running around, a decade after the Spanish VW subsidiary ceased its operations here. 

With Citroën and Chevrolet, the volumes are much greater and as such, there should be safety in numbers, if you do take the risk. Just be aware that unlike Warren Buffet’s investment horizon, which is always long term, your Chevrolet or Citroën will become a liability after many years, much as the case was with American, Swedish and French cars in the late 1980s, when there was no official support for them in South Africa. 

If you can manage to get a steal of a deal on Citroën or Chevrolet products, calculate your motoring needs for the next seven or ten years, and decide accordingly. But don’t expect to see a huge return (if any) when you finally decide to sell. 

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