PARIS -- Citroen disappointed a lot of people earlier this month.
Rumors were running wild that the French carmaker was bringing back its legendary DS line.
Car fans wanted to believe that Citroens longtime design chief, Jean-Pierre Ploue, was finally going to put a 21st century spin on the original DS.
Naturally, the faithful were unhappy when the French carmaker revealed its DS Inside concept, a small, stylish box clearly designed to compete with the Mini.
The planetary buzz and subsequent letdown could have been avoided had fans paid closer attention to the initial Automotive News Europe report, which clearly stated that Citroen was reviving the DS badge for a new range of near-premium models. Not a new DS.
Citroens first DS, which launched in 1955, is a 20th century icon. Its futuristic design and technological advances set Italian designer Flaminio Bertonis masterpiece apart from just about every other executive sedan on the road for the next 20 years.
The DS, as Citroen product boss Vincent Besson explains, is irreplaceable and impossible to copy.
Asking a car company to build a new DS in 2009 is akin to ordering an architectural firm to replace the Eiffel Tower.
Its just not going to happen.
Some purists think the DS moratorium should extend to the famous initials, which Citroen will bring back starting in 2010 across its new DS range.
Marketing executives disagree. They say design and performance standards will set the new, near-premium cars apart from the rest of the Citroen range, earning the right to the DS comparison.
Citroen will show the DS Inside concept during next months Geneva auto show. The production DS3 – based on the existing small C3 – goes on sale in 2010.
A lower-medium DS4, based on the existing C4, and an upper-medium DS5, based on the existing C5, will follow in 2011.
Citroen wants to squeeze extra revenue and higher margins out of its near-premium line.
Production costs only will be slightly above those for cars in the
Prices, on the other hand, are expected to hover slightly below those for cars from premium-sector competitors such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
The desire to convert dormant goodwill into bottom line added-value is the real reason behind Citroens decision to dust off the DS badge.
Customers will soon decide if the bet pays off.