DS divorces Citroen, becomes stand alone brand
EXCLUSIVE: FRENCH MARQUE SPINS OFF LUXURY BRAND TO WIN PREMIUM MARKETS IN CHINA, US
If you’re going to relaunch your French car brand to introduce it as a worldwide premium product, Paris is probably the ideal location.
That’s what DS decided when parent company PSA decided to take on the German premium brands, and move it away from its former association with Citroen.
Called DS Week, the company set up next door to the Louvre and flew international journalists, including Driven, and its dealers from around the world to promote the plan for world domination.
The company intends that by 2020 it will be competing against Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz worldwide as a premium brand, with the large sedan, the DS5, the first standalone car in its fleet.
The DS executives interviewed made no secret of the fact that its target was huge sales in China, with the US another important market as the company gears up to launch five models.
Already that line-up includes the DS5, DS3 sports hatch and the DS4 with two SUVs expected to make up the remaining product line — a compact crossover and a large off-roader, probably based on the China-sold DS6.
DS products manager Vincent Devos said the brand would look outside its usual customer base.
“Currently the DS customers come from Peugeot, Citroen and Renault but they know about Audi, Mercedes, and sometimes [Nissan premium brand] Infinity,” said Devos.
“But this time, we are going to the premium market, and we want by 2020 to be a premium brand.”
While the DS brand will be totally separate in large international markets with individual showrooms, salons and DS World boutiques, in New Zealand the plan is simpler.
For now, the premium line will remain in Citroen dealerships here, according to New Zealand’s divisional manager, Simon Rose, who was also in Paris.
“It’s going to be a very simplified strategy and it’s likely we’re going to have only one derivative of each model line — so one DS3, one DS4 and one DS5 — and it will be kept more premium than it has been,” said Rose.
“So we will have leather as standard across the range and include top-level specifications.
“Further to that we’ll be working with the dealer network to evolve a set of services that are more applicable and in line with premium brand and buyers.”
Rose will introduce all three DS-badged cars — DS3, DS4, and DS5 — in New Zealand early next year.
I was given the chance to drive the DS5, DS3 and DS3 R around Paris last week.
Rose expects to sell New Zealand only the DS5 2-litre diesel that produces 133Kw of power and 400Nm of torque.
The large sedan visually makes a presence on the roads, especially the limited edition 60th Anniversary dark blue model, with the engine coping with stop-start traffic, but with plenty of torque when needed on the 130km/h highway out of the French capital.
The drive also took in in the winding country roads around Versailles, though the the six-speed auto could have benefited from steering-wheel paddles to really work through the tight corners.
Earlier in the week, I tested the DS3 three-door hot hatches, with the six-speed manual DS3 R (short for Racing and based on the WRC cars) a standout model.
Rose hopes to have some DS3 R cars available in New Zealand.
“It’s one of those vehicles that is of course quite low in volume and quite limited numbers if we do import them,” he said.
From the number of Facebook comments on the DS3 R photo posted by DrivenNZ, Rose may find quite a few fans of the three-door sports hatch.