Blog: Citroën DS
Dave Leggett | 1 December 2005
Earlier this morning I was looking on the Citroën website for an appropriate image to accompany a piece we are running on PSA's large car factory at Rennes and I settled on a studio picture of the almost insanely futuristic DS. As well as containing various technical innovations (like hyrdopneumatic suspension), what a pleasing design that was with its smooth curves and distinctive nose. Easy to say now. Not at all bad for 1955, and a very brave move at the time. And well done to Citroën for having a decent picture gallery on its website.
There's an old and weary looking Citroën DS estate I sometimes come across parked on a residential street in London that I regularly walk down. Gladens the heart to see it. It stands out a mile from the gleaming BMWs, Volvos and Mercs and it's still, amazingly, serving as a real workhorse - interior decorating materials, equipment and step ladders unceremoniously chucked in the back. Whenever I pass it I can't help imagining the late Alan Clark (former British government minister and one heck of a colourful character, too honest by half) cruising through rural France in his impeccably maintained DS décapotable (convertible), of which he was very fond.
But will PSA be able to cut it again in upmarket segments, outside of France? How well did Renault do with Vel Satis? Not very. Did someone just say something about the wonderfully reliable (not) electrics on the Citroën XM?
The manufacturing strategy is one thing, but marketing won't be easy. Premium brands have hit the volume brands for six in upmarket - and high margin - segments over the last twenty years. In Europe, Ford dropped Granada/Scorpio and GM eventually dropped Omega/Senator. Ford has its PAG brands for that part of the market and GM has Saab and Cadillac. Will PSA be able to mix it with the dedicated upscale brands like BMW and Lexus? Won't be easy. People with the income level tend to want, say, a basic BMW 3 Series rather than a fully kitted out, say, Opel Vectra. The volume brand product may, objectively, represent 'better' value, but brand perceptions count for an awful lot and aren't easily changed.
C6 is an intriguing one. GM's similar four-seater Vectra-based Signum concept flopped, but Citroën seems to be undeterred by that.
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