As a product director at Peugeot, Marion David managed the development of the 3008 and 5008 crossovers, which have become big hits for the French brand. She then helped develop a multibrand dealership for parent company PSA Group. Last fall, David was named product director at the upscale brand DS, which has introduced the first two all-new models, the DS3 and DS7 Crossback SUVs, both of which have electrified drivetrain options that are key to meeting emissions targets. She spoke about her new post with Automotive News Europe correspondent Peter Sigal at PSA's technical center outside of Paris.
At Peugeot, you were the program director for the 3008 and 5008 crossovers. What did you learn from helping to launch those successful vehicles?
I learned a lot about what customers' expectations were, and how to meet them. After having done the 3008 and 5008, I became a dealer (for PSA Retail), so I sold the cars, and I repaired the cars. I first had the opportunity to do advance planning -- that is, how do you replace the original 3008, which was more like an MPV? We built a completely new car (the new 3008 is a crossover); then, when I sold the car I could see how customers reacted to what I put into the car.
How will you use that experience at DS?
The product development process is the same, but the objectives are not, because premium customers are different. When I was a dealer, I cut the Peugeot showroom into two parts and I made a DS Store, so I could observe both the Peugeot customers and the DS customers. It was interesting to see how the Peugeot 3008 and DS 7 Crossback were completely different.
But they are on the same platform?
Yes, they're on the same platform and they share some modules, but the customers are different and they pay attention to different things.
DS has been a standalone brand for almost five years. How has it developed?
It's completely different than when it was DS products within the Citroen brand. We're now making completely premium cars. It's a different mindset. We are thinking about refinement and technology. We're working on design and materials that are unique to us. We even have our own leather-working studio here at the DS design center.
Is DS profitable on a unit basis?
Yes. Because we share PSA plants, we don't have any pressure on volumes, so we're very focused on profitability by unit, and the brand construction -- quality, refinement, technology.
The e-Tense battery-electric version of the DS3 Crossback will be one of the first small premium electric SUVs on the market. What are your expectations for sales?
We can't be precise, but we're able to go up to 25 percent of the mix (with the electric version).
How will you convince customers to buy the electric version, which starts at 39,000 euros compared to internal combustion versions, which start at 23,500 euros (in France)?
We want to show that it has the same total cost of ownership, or TCO, plus or minus 3 percent, compared to the internal combustion versions.
Are you focusing on leasing or buying?
Already, more than half our customers are buying with a lease, and with electrification, we expect to sell even more that way.
The top price for the plug-in hybrid version of the DS7 Crossback compact SUV is 74,000 euros, in the highest trim level. How will you persuade buyers to pay that?
We don't think it will be a problem, because the DS7 is already quite a rich mix. More than half of our customers in 2018 bought the top two trim levels, and 40 percent of them bought the highest level of driver assistance technology. We think we have the room to increase the price, because we're selling a performance car -- it's a 4x4 with 300 horsepower, so it's amazing to drive.
How is DS using digital tools to sell cars?
We launched DS sales online in January for the DS3 Crossback, and it's quite easy, actually. It will be the normal way of selling in 10 or 20 years, no question. But of course you have to keep a link to the dealer because you have to test drive the car, you have to see and touch the car -- it's very important, especially for DS.
How will dealers get paid?
The customer buys the car online, then goes to the dealer of his choice to pick up the car. That dealer will get their profit margin.
Are dealers concerned about online sales?
The dealer will still get their money. If the car was to sell the car online, and then have the customer pick up that car at the factory, then they would be worried. We want to keep a close relationship with the dealers. That's really important for premium customers.