CAR sat down at the 2012 Paris Motor Show with the head of Citroën’s DS line, Thomas d’Haussy, to find out what his plans for the popular DS line are, whether we’ll see more influence from Citroën’s WRC success in the range, and why the DS5 doesn’t ride as wonderfully as the original DS…
IM: What can we expect from the DS line going forward?
So far we have four models in the DS line, the DS3, DS4, DS5, and the recently revealed (about an hour before this interview) DS3 Convertible. At the moment this represents around 15 per cent of global Citroën sales, though we expect this number to grow significantly since launching in China. In China we have a two-tier approach that will see Citroën and Citroën DS models developed, built and sold separately. The first dedicated DS dealership was opened in June and we see a huge part of DS volume going forward being sold in China.
Three more programmes in the DS line, a C-segment sedan, an SUV and a D-segment sedan, are planned for the not-too-distant future.
Obviously there is a lot of pressure surrounding heritage when placing the famous DS badge on a new model. Are there any plans to develop a true successor to the original DS?
We’ve had a lot of questions in the past around how to do both a new DS and a new 2CV. I would say at this point in time we are more focused on maintaining the spirit of these original cars. They represent a free-minded, innovative-spirit way of building a car, including new architectures and pushing design boundaries. Even a car like the DS3 has retro design elements.
At the moment we don’t want to make a fully retro-design DS. Maybe it would be a sales success but it’s not the way we see Citroën moving forward. We have always been a forward-thinking manufacturer so we would be reluctant to do something purely as a marketing exercise.
How would you define the DS line in terms of its core hallmarks and attractions? Is it appealing because of its uniqueness or is it because it is fashionable?
We are competing with other premium brands but I think we offer something slightly different in terms of being creative and unique. I think if we were to try and take on the German brands without this uniqueness we would not be as successful. What we want is to offer something special in terms of design, architecture, dynamism, and refinement. We are a Parisian manufacturer and I think we must make cars the Parisian way. I think this is why people choose a DS model as opposed to say an Audi. An example of this is the DS Monogramme pattern, available on the DS3 convertible, that is similar to something that Louis Vuitton might pen. Also we only use top quality materials, including real aluminium and leather similar to that found in the likes of Bentleys and other top-end models. We place an important emphasis on craftsmanship.
Are the same design teams responsible for the likes of the C3 and the DS3?
When we started with the DS3 we had two different designers for each car to ensure that the spirits of each car were clearly distinguishable. We had one designer for the interior but, again, there is a definitely no confusing the inside of the C3 and the DS3. C3 customers look for space, lightness, and ultimate comfort, while DS3 owners seek something more sporty and dynamic. It’s interesting because although some parts are the same, they can look and feel completely different. At the moment we have a chief designer for Citroën and a chief designer for DS to ensure a different spirit between the two brands. The Numero 9 concept is a design study of where future DS models are heading.
How much of a consideration is the Racing line going to be for the DS line going forward?
Well dynamism is something very important for the DS range. I think we had a special opportunity around the DS3, especially given the popularity of the hot hatch segment and our ongoing WRC success. A car like the DS4 Racing, which we revealed in concept form at the Geneva Show, is a much more niche product so, to date, no decision has been made on its future.
While we had engineers from Citroën Racing work on the DS3 Racing, they obviously have different priorities in terms of all-out pace and dynamics to us. For us we still need the car to be comfortable and reliable over an extended period. It was however still a very good experience as they brought a different way of thinking in terms of braking, engine mapping and performance.
Were you surprised at the global interest around the DS3 Racing?
Definitely. Initially we predicted sales half of what we actually did. The fact is that people love things that are new and fashionable. Our strategy going forward is to launch even more limited edition models, like the DS3 Racing Loeb edition (which looks absolutely awesome – ed), as we are finding great success with this. It offers exclusivity.
You mentioned that you had been questioned around a potential successor to the 2CV?
Yes, but I don’t think this will happen in terms of an outright design. Instead we are looking at recreating the spirit of the “deux chevaux”. People love the simplicity of the car. In many modern cars you find features and extras that you simply don’t need. We would like to, going forward, rethink what people want and need in their car and offer only what the customer needs to enjoy their motoring experience. A new spirit in the way people buy and drive cars.
The original DS was obviously renowned for its ride quality. With the new DS5 in particular ride refinement seems not to have been as much of a focus point. Was it a priority of the modern DS line to mimic the comfort and ride quality of the original or were the looks and styling individualism of greater concern?
Given the global concept of the DS5 we put more focus on styling and dynamics. We are obviously working on more models going forward and could just as easily prioritise ultimate comfort on future DS offerings.