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DS will challenge established premium brands

Release Date:2015/08/31   Sources of information:Automotive News Europe

Vincent Devos: "We are just at the beginning [of building an established marque] and it will take perhaps two generations of cars [to build DS into a well-recognized premium brand]."

DS Automobiles may be the youngest brand on the market but its product chief, Vincent Devos, believes PSA/Peugeot-Citroen’s upscale marque can rival the best the luxury segment has to offer within two decades. He says DS will take on brands such as BMW, Audi, Lexus and Cadillac by offering cars with distinctive personalities and avant-garde styling. He spoke with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Olive Keogh.

How long will it take to build DS into a well-recognized premium brand?

We are just at the beginning and it will take perhaps two generations of cars. A car generation is 6-7 years so 15-20 years probably. We are the youngest brand on the market and are only now launching our first real DS generation with its own identity and no Citroen logo or lettering.

You will sell DS through DS Stores and DS Salons. What is the difference between them?

It is related to the size of the market. In a big city where the premium market is big enough we want stand-alone DS stores. The DS Salon is for smaller markets/cities. It will be inside an existing Citroen dealership but with its own dedicated space, sales staff and distinctive exterior and interior identities.

How close to the Numero 9 concept will the production version of the new DS8 large car be?

I know about Numero 9 but I don’t recognize the name DS8. We have a project code name at this time but we haven’t decided on the commercial name of our new large vehicle yet. Maybe it will be DS8. Maybe not. We will launch six totally new cars before 2020 that will be available for world markets.

Can you tell us what the six new cars will be?

There will be SUVs and sedan, large and medium.

Europe has never shown much appetite for large sedans from non-luxury brands. Why should it be different for DS?

We won’t offer a traditional luxury car with three boxes. We will try to do something with avant-garde design. Something really special like DS5 or Numero 9.

Are you convinced there is a market for a large sedan?

There will always be customers who want a classic premium car. This demand exists everywhere in the world including China, South America and the Middle East where there is a huge market for this kind of car. But Europe is also important especially France and the UK, our biggest markets. Of course the European market has changed a lot over the last 10 years. People are moving to smaller cars. Some are moving to compact SUVs. Others to premium small cars. But yes, there is still a market for large cars - not necessarily five meters but maybe 4 meters and 70 centimeters for example.

The DS line-up is aging. What is your next new model?

We are working on DS4 and DS3 to have them as real DS cars. We will launch them soon and they will be very different to the current generations.

Can you describe a typical DS customer?

Younger than typical Citroen customers and for the DS5 probably aged 40-45 years rather than the usual in the premium segment which is 50-55 years.

DS5 was the mold-breaker. What do customers like about it?

Two things - it is really different to other cars in the street with its own personality. DS5 is like a UFO for some people. Secondly, it gives them joy because you experience life differently from its cockpit as it has been influenced by aviation. Physical comfort, acoustic comfort, refinement and technology are also important.

What stage are you at in the rollout of connected services in your vehicles?

We have a connected car roadmap up to 2020 and are now at 20-30 per cent of what it will be eventually. Connected services are very important for DS. We are developing many services such as car monitoring and tracking and the possibility to have a mirror screen to use apps from your smartphone with the touchscreen of the car. For us the HMI (human machine interface) is very important. We won’t accept an app that disturbs the driver.

How does your brand positioning differ between Europe and China?

Our strategy is the same in both markets. It is to have DS in the premium segment. The competitors are also the same - some German brands, some Japanese ones, maybe Alfa Romeo and some American ones such as Cadillac in China.

Where does North America fit into your strategy?

At this time nothing is decided. We have it in mind but it won't be in the short term. One thing is sure, if any PSA group brand goes to North America DS will be first.

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