BRUCE GAIN

How PSA's DS division aims to sell French chic worldwide

The DS World in Paris showcases DS models in three separate yet relatively small showrooms on three floors.
Bruce Gain is an Automotive News Europe correspondent in France.
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PSA/Peugeot-Citroen’s Paris dealership dedicated to the upscale DS brand is much like a high-end French restaurant: cozy, understated but chic.

PSA plans to replicate the traits it offers at DS World in Paris in cities around the world where it believes there is unmet demand for French luxury goods.

My visit to DS World in Paris, the only stand-alone DS outlet in Europe, gave me a first-hand look at what the brand wants to represent to new customers in China, Japan, Russia, the Middle East, Latin American and, perhaps, even the United States.

In Paris, DS World is not ostentatiously displayed on the Champs-Elysees next to fast food chains or clothing outlets. It’s located on a side street away from the big crowds.

Inside, DS models are displayed in three separate yet relatively small showrooms on three floors. DS wants the beauty of the cars speaks to itself.

What PSA really wants the beauty of the cars to do is fill order books worldwide with customers it steals from brands such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes that lack DS’s strong link to always-fashionable Paris.

Ironically, the new boss of DS doesn’t believe the brand’s French-ness will have the same appeal in European cities outside of France.

“In Europe, awareness of French luxury goods is not as strong as it is in the rest of the world,” DS CEO Yves Bonnefont told Automotive News Europe.

That’s OK, Bonnefont said, because he doesn’t want DS too remain reliant on Europe, where it sells most of its vehicles now.

“It is good to be successful in Europe, but we don’t want to be stuck,” Bonnefont said.

That type of reliance nearly crippled PSA’s Peugeot and Citroen brands during Europe’s six-year sales slump.

The long-term growth of DS will depend more on its urban chic appeal worldwide than attracting customers in small European towns where farm tractors are more in demand than French luxury goods. So while DS tries to conquer the rest of the world, it will remain very strongly attached to Citroen’s mainstream dealerships network in Europe, at least in the short term.

You can reach Bruce Gain at bgain@crain.com.

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