DS Automobiles was spun off from Citroen in 2014, but it took until 2018 before its first brand-specific model, the DS 7 Crossback compact SUV, went on sale. The smaller DS 3 Crossback, which will have an electric version of parent PSA Group's CMP architecture, was launched last year. Four more DS models are expected in the next four years. CEO Yves Bonnefont spoke with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Peter Sigal about how DS is forging its own identity as an upscale brand.
Bonnefont is moving to a new post at PSA to study potential synergies and cost savings across brands, PSA said on Jan. 15. Beatrice Foucher succeeds him as DS CEO.
DS is developing a midsize sedan. What are your goals for the car?
The logic of the DS range is very simple. We will introduce six cars [designed for DS], in segments that are both global and growing. While in Europe it might seem that large sedans are a thing of the past, it's not the same in other regions. The premium sedan segment is stable in China, for example. Even in Europe, there are still people who like the elegance of a nice sedan. Elegance is part of our DNA, so it makes sense for us to have a modern sedan in our range.
How are your two new SUVs, the DS 3 Crossback and DS 7 Crossback, doing against their competition?
It's been a year and a half since we launched the DS 7 Crossback, and the DS 3 Crossback is also out now, so it's a good time to check on where we are. While we don't want to manage the brand by volume, it's still good to be growing. It's solid growth because it's driven by three factors: product launches; new dealers, about two a week worldwide, so we are growing our geographic range; and we are also taking market share. The DS 7 Crossback has about a 20 percent segment share in France; it's No. 1 in the premium C SUV [compact] segment, ahead of the BMW X1 and Audi Q3. In the B SUV [small] premium [segment] we have a 50 percent share in France with the DS 3 Crossback. In Italy, we grew 36 percent in the second quarter in a premium market that was down 8.5 percent. In Benelux, we are up 35 percent in a premium market down 3.5 percent.
What is the timeline for the DS 3 Crossback E-Tense?
The first deliveries started at the end of 2019. Based on firm orders, we are predicting that we will see a mix of close to 10 percent. To be honest I thought demand would be lower. It might be that it's early adopters who are familiar with electric cars.
What is your sales strategy?
We try to show people the benefits of driving electric. For DS, electric is a high-end powertrain. The cars are a real pleasure to drive. You don't buy an electric car because you don't have a choice; you buy it because you are excited by the fact that it's electric. The second reason is that many of our customers live in the city center, and some cities are closing their centers to non-zero emissions cars. It's a future-proof car -- it will allow buyers to use it without restriction on their mobility. On top of that, the total cost of ownership is equivalent to that of a car with an internal combustion engine, but I think in the case of premium, it's not the No. 1 reason to buy.