PSA/Peugeot-Citroen's upscale DS brand is on track to be successful in China because of consumer demand for French luxury goods -- but it is not a serious rival to the German premium brands.
French luxury goods are hot items among a burgeoning middle and upper middle class of consumers in China and DS is well positioned to offer a French-accented driving experience thousands of miles away from mainland Europe.
The DS brand’s main selling points are bold exterior designs and custom-stitched leather interiors that make a Parisian fashion statement.
The popularity of DS’ association with French fashion is beginning to pay off in sales volumes.
IHS Automotive says DS sales are on track to reach 110,583 units by 2018 compared with 34,552 by the end of this year in China. DS sales were 15,400 through September, PSA said Oct. 22.
PSA launched sales of its second China-built DS model, the DS 6WR crossover, in September. It started sales of its first DS model, the DS5 LS compact sedan, in September 2013. PSA's joint factory with Changan Automobile in Shenzhen, southern China, is dedicated to the production of DS models.
Chinese consumers generally do not buy a DS model as a status symbol like they do when they purchase an Audi, BMW and Mercedes, as much as they buy the car because they appreciate French fashion.
But don’t expect affluent Chinese customers to switch in mass away from buying the very popular German premium brand cars anytime in the near future.
Audi's China sales in the first nine months were 415,704, followed by BMW at 335,863 and Mercedes at 203,485. This compares with a fledgling total of 15,400 DS units sold in China in the same period.
German premium carmakers will continue to beat DS in sales volumes and they will always be able to charge more for their cars than DS can. However, there will still be plenty of customers in China ready to buy into the French mystique and to make DS successful.