The 2014 Paris Motor Show marked a new era for Citroen, with the launch of its Divine DS concept car to present the DS brand as a standalone entity.
Show goers will have seen the clear demarcation between the adjacent DS and Citroen stands with the great juxtaposition of colours; a visual representation of the split – in Europe, at least.
For this separate DS marque it has grand plans with aims to compete in the premium sector. It won’t do it by imitating its German rivals, however – DS will create its own niche.
We caught up with DS vice president for products, business development and profitability, Eric Apode, to find out how.
DS models launched five years ago in 2009 – where do you see DS in another five years?
“DS is just launching on its own in Europe, but it has been established in China for a while. French manufacturers are very popular in China – we’re a premium brand and DS has been selling 17,000 cars a year in China for the first six years. DS has sold over 500,000 cars since it’s returned as part of Citroen with the DS3, and later with the DS4 and DS5.
“The infrastructure we have in China will help the growth of DS and develop our vehicles and service to the customer. We will have one line-up for China and one line-up for the rest of the world – it will be a complete line-up of six cars for each market in the coming years.”
Expect luxury compact hatchbacks to larger saloons, SUVs and crossovers with some shared technology from Citroen, but a bespoke DS edge.
You’ve launched the DS brand with the slogan ‘capturing the essence of DS’ – what is that exactly?
“We want to concentrate on DS’ five key values: heritage, design and avant-garde, technology with effects, refinement and materials, and comfort.
“We’re extremely proud of our past at DS – our history dates back to 1955 and that’s one thing we want to keep hold of. The DS made history and was an avant-garde car with a very stylish, very French and very specific design. It gave a French feeling, a feeling of glamour and vision.
“It also presented technology that had an effect, like the moving headlights – something we’ve built on with the new DS3 and its new LED lights with sequential indicators.
“Refinement and materials has always been a strong DS quality. You can see it in the Divine DS concept with the different materials: the leather, the metal and the Swarovski crystals.
Finally, we have comfort. This comes from the high-quality materials. We will pay attention to our customers’ wellbeing. We want the customer to feel at ease and extremely closely linked to our values.”
Those brand values are similar to Audi or BMW’s, so how will DS differentiate itself from the competition?
“Everybody is able to say what we say with brand values, but no other brand can say they were born in Paris and live in Paris – we want to convey our life is Paris. We will build the brand on French and Parisian qualities and luxury.
“We want to give a very personal, French feeling with DS. We want this to be Paris in automotive form. Paris captures the imagination; it’s joyful and optimistic. This is why DS is already so successful around the world.”
Compared to its closest German rivals, this is how DS will differentiate itself – by ploughing its own posh car furrow and developing vehicles with a distinct Parisian character.
DS thinks there’s a global market for this type of car as an alternative to the cold, reserved luxury that’s dominated the market in recent times. Going by the Divine DS’ reception, it’s right.
What was the brief for the Divine DS concept, and will we see it make production?
“For Divine DS we said, ‘forget constraints and forget convention. Be creative, be avant-garde, be Paris. Bring our brand values to life.’
“The Divine has three different interior themes to show the designers’ vision and what is possible. We probably won’t make them, but it highlights the increase in personalisation and fashion.
“It’s interesting for the philosophy, not for what it is. It shows a dream. Every customer is unique and we want them to personalise their DS in the future.
“The Divine probably won’t be a production car, but you will see elements and themes from the concept. The future of DS is more rational but with the same passion.”
If the DS brand is now separate to Citroen, where will you sell the cars?
“We will have some standalone DS franchises in some big urban centres, like in China. We already have DS World and a number of other stores across the globe.
“We have plans to open 200 specific DS stores in the 200 wealthiest cities around the world, so there will be one coming to London. But we don’t have the capacity to open hundreds and thousands of DS dealers, so we will use some of the existing Citroen infrastructure with a very bespoke DS touch.”
The DS brand knows it has a significant journey ahead, but it’s confident in its approach and confident in its future products.
As an alternative to the usual generic German boxes, it could prove a very attractive rival to the likes of the Golf. We won’t be surprised to see VW keeping a close eye on DS’ global performance, not just its European sales.