Beatrice Foucher, a veteran Renault-Nissan alliance executive, was named CEO of DS Automobiles in January. She is taking over PSA Group's premium brand at a pivotal time. PSA's planned merger with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles would add a struggling premium brand to the combined company, Alfa Romeo, which could compete with DS for resources and attention. DS itself is just emerging from a sales drought that followed its transition into a stand-alone brand in 2014. Foucher shared her vision for DS with Automotive News Europe Associate Publisher and Editor Luca Ciferri and News Editor Peter Sigal.
Where does the DS brand fit into a merged PSA/FCA?
The first key point for me is that DS is a growing brand with great success in Europe, where sales increased by 17 percent last year, even with only two cars. There's no question about the future of DS. In addition, DS, like the FCA premium brands, will benefit from the merger because we will have a bigger basket of technology to choose from. And we know that technology development costs a lot, so having more brands to support that is a great opportunity for DS, as well as FCA's premium brands.
What is your ambition for the DS 9 globally and in Europe? Which competitors are you targeting?
The ambition we have is to be present in the premium D [midsize] segment in the markets where this silhouette is relevant. If we look at the figures, 25 percent of the global premium market is sedans, including in China and in Europe. That was the driver for DS to offer this body type as the third car in our new lineup [after the DS 3 Crossback and DS 7 Crossback SUVs].
Will the DS 9 be built only in China? Has the coronavirus outbreak affected the start of production?
It will be built in the Shenzhen factory [which was reopened in late February]. What we need to do now is accumulate the parts we need for the DS 9 to be produced, including components from suppliers that were halted due to the virus as well as some suppliers from outside the country. The ambition we have is that the DS 9 will be launched in the second half of this year.