PARIS -- DS Automobiles, PSA Group's upscale brand, unveiled the DS 7 Crossback, its new flagship SUV.
The compact model is a crucial launch for DS, which has stuggled to gain a foothold since it was established in 2010 to challenge Germany's Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz luxury marques.
PSA is emphasizing the DS 7 Crossback's luxury features and options, including five different interior "ambiences" and materials and details "inspired by haute couture." The first DS 7 Crossbacks will be sold as a special model called the X 74 La Premiere, in shades of gray, white and black.
A DS spokesman said the DS 7 Crossback will compete against cars such as the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA and Range Rover Evoque.
PSA CEO Carlos Tavares described the DS 7 Crossback as the first product in the second generation of DS cars. "I think it will be a cornerstone for the development of this brand," Tavares told analysts on Friday at PSA's 2016 financial results news conference.
At last week's results conference, Tavares emphasized that PSA will be patient with the DS brand. "On a premium brand we cannot rush," he said. "We need to do things right, things right on service, things right on brand new technology, things right on fit and finish, and things right on quality."
The DS name, which recalls Citroen's pioneering DS19 model from the mid-1950s, was revived in 2010 for the Citroen DS 3 subcompact hatchback. The brand was officially rolled out in Europe in 2014, though it had been sold separately in China for several years before that.
In addition to the DS 3, the current lineup includes the DS 4 compact car, the midsize DS 5 and, in China, the DS 6 midsize SUV.
Earlier this year, PSA announced it would build a separate showroom network in Europe to market DS vehicles as part of its effort to revive sales, although DS executives have said they expect the slump to continue in 2017, with results picking up in 2018 as new models are introduced and the separate showrooms open.
The DS 7 Crossback shares its EMP2 platform with the new Peugeot 3008 and upcoming Opel Grandland X. There will be a choice of six powertrains: two diesel engines with 130 or 180 horsepower; three gasoline engines with 130, 180 or 225 horsepower; and a coming plug-in electric-gasoline hybrid, with all-wheel-drive, that the company says will produce 300 horsepower.
A six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission will be available, depending on the model. The DS 7 Crossback will be built plants in in Mulhouse, France, and Shenzhen, China.
DS's vehicle sales fell 16 percent from 2015 to 2016, to 85,981 vehicles from 102,335. Sales in Europe were down 14.7 percent for the year to 65,452, and 24.8 percent to 16,151 in Southeast Asia and China, where the brand is heavily marketed.