DS Automobiles, now this is a name that rings a bell somewhere in the brain of any real car enthusiast. But what is it all about? Am I talking about the almighty Citroën DS, which was way ahead of its time when it was launched in 1955? Not quite, but not far off, either. Let me give you a brief look into the past. I insist on brief, you can look up the details on every established motoring page. In 2009, PSA’s (Peugeot SA) brand Citroën launched the upscale “DS line” in order to differentiate it from the more common C line. Five years later, due to the high demand of those cars in China, PSA decides to make DS a standalone brand. As the company is slowly but steadily bringing out facelifted, chevron free models of the already existing DS3, DS3 convertible, DS4 and DS5, the manufacturers also increases the number of dedicated point of sales.
After China, the DS Worlds, DS Stores, DS Salons and DS Lounges are now step by step showing their faces in Europe as well. In a way, just like BMW did when they bought MINI and build up their brand presence within the BMW dealership network. But are they doing it right? Are they taking it as seriously as they ought to? And if yes, do they still have enough time to succeed? In a premium market, the devil is in the details. If there is anything important in a brand that has the ambition to tackle the established elite like Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar, the only things DS have to care about are the details. And this is the critical part. Okay, PSA have been making a lot of very good cars over the last decade; the Citroën C4 Picasso, C4 Cactus, Peugeot 208, 308 & 508 (especially the facelifted model) are all excellent cars. However, have you ever been in a RHD version of any of them? PSA do not move the fuse box to the right side, meaning that it takes half of the place of the glove box…!!!! I discovered this by watching several Carbuyer reviews and Mat Watson has pointed it out every single time!
I had high hopes that this would end with the introduction of the new EMP2 platform…but it didn’t!!! How can the person or the group of people responsible for the validation of any PSA car look at this and say “Yes, this is acceptable”? Guess what, it isn’t!
The same thing is to be found in the current DS 4 & DS 4 Crossback. The back door handle is incorporated in the window and gives it a pointy end, which frankly is not practicle and you must be very careful not to spear yourself when opening the door in a thight parking space. Best of all, these back windows don’t even open…!
You might ask, how is that possible? The DS 4 finds its origins in the DS High Rider Concept which was basically a two door version of the current version.
Obviously, Citroën at the time decided to make it a four door car, but there was visibly no space in the shape of the door to accomodate an the windows. What a shame and yet someone decided to go on with the project and launch the for door version into production just like that. And that’s the thing about PSA: They make excellent, good looking, solid, reliable cars, but then way to often are there flaws like these that literally ruin the entire car and tarnish the group’s reputation.
Anyway, my point is not rant meaninglessly about Peugeot, Citroën and DS. On a contrary, I’m a big fan! Even more so am I worried that they overlook all of these details, which at the same time in my perspective are the most important thing in a premium car. In the end, what is it that we want from a premium car? Style, comfort, power, exclusivity? Yes, probably, but in my opinion I call it a premium because the engineers found a way to make product more userfriendly, practical and efficient and at the same time stylish and desirable… A Citroën DS or the original Porsche 911 Carrera were given their shapes because the shape followed the functions designed by their respective engineers.
So all in all, I think PSA’s strategy is solid and the ambitions its CEO, Carlos Tavares has set for DS Automobiles are achievable. In my opinion its also the only way to succeed in the premium market. They needed to have a premium-only brand. It could have been Citroën, but then they would have to leave the utility vehicles to Peugeot. To DS’ defence, I believe they are doing the best they can with the resources they have. Audi would have facelifted the entire range within six months, but DS lacks the cash. So for now, revised chassis, LED headlamps, touch screen, some new interior trim levels and paint choices will have to suffice until the from the ground up new generation of DS models will fight for their market segments all over the world.
I do think DS can make it. They just need to start bringing new models soon (2017 at the very latest) and treat customers according to their premium ambitions. It would definitively be a fresh breeze in the already very established premium segment.