Making a success of the DS brand is one of the biggest tasks facing PSA/Peugeot-Citroen CEO Carlos Tavares as he seeks to turn around Europe’s second-largest automaker after Volkswagen Group.
PSA revived the DS badge for a range of near-premium models five years ago, hoping its association with the iconic DS cars built by Citroen in the 1950s and 1960s would give the line instant appeal.
Tavares made DS Automobiles a stand-alone brand in April last year in a bid to boost PSA’s profitability by increasing sales of higher-margin cars aimed at customers in Europe and China.
So far, the effect of DS has been underwhelming. PSA’s global vehicle sales rose by 4.3 percent to 2.94 million last year but DS sales fell by 3.4 percent to 118,472.
Tavares said DS is an “investment for the future.” The brand’s sales decline last year was due to a lack of new products, he said. “I am very excited about what I am seeing in the design studios [for DS],” he told Automotive News Europe.
Tavares is giving DS the time it needs to develop into a true premium brand that will one day be the French alternative to Audi. “Quality is a must and to deliver quality, you need to let people do whatever they have to do in the right timeframe,” he said.
Tavares believes the DS brand eventually will be viewed globally with the same high regard as France’s top fashion, food, wine and jewelry companies. “DS’s mission is to represent the sophistication of French luxury in cars,” he said.
Industry watchers are skeptical about Tavares’s ambitions for DS. Max Warburton, an auto analyst at Bernstein Research, admires the idea of associating DS with French luxury but said: “Building a premium brand from scratch will be incredibly hard.”
PSA showed some of the DS brand’s new models to Warburton and other financial analysts at a Paris event in March. The future DS products on display were attractive but contained a mix of Audi, Infiniti and even BMW styling ideas, Warburton said. “The end result is arguably undifferentiated or even confused,” he said.