What is to be made of the DS Divine concept car? Is it a Good Thing that PSA now has Peugeot, Citroen and the DS brands to manage?
As we know, PSA has decided, in its wisdom, to divide its efforts no longer in two, but three. From hereon in (or, at least until PSA has gone to the hereafter), the Sino-French giant will furnish the market with Peugeots, Citroens and DSs (the latter to be shorn of the Citroen moniker sometime next year, in the UK at least, so it is reported). One can assume that the thinking here is that: a) it gives the opportunity to spread capital investment in new platforms across three brands and, therefore, potentially, more cars sold; and, b) that PSA can charge a premium for those sold under the DS badge. To be fair, it seems that some markets, the Chinese at least, like the look and feel of existing DS material, and they sell well enough. One senses, though, that long term growth of this new wing to the mighty PSA might require something a little more special than what has been served thus far.
As a statement of future intent, DS has sent forth a concept, and not held back in terms of bequeathing it a confident name – “Divine” (surely, one fully expects that, if productionised, the top trim level would have to be labelled “Daaahhling”). Looking at the pictures, the main theme of this concept, and, one suspects, the DS –line, is clearly the diamond. These appear in a pattern of alternating matt, satin, opaque and transparent panels on its roof, in the grille and (I think – hard to see on the photos I accessed) on the door mirror cases, for starters. A funny (odd – not ha-ha) choice; I thought that another French marque had historically laid claim to that particular motif, but I’m probably missing the point. Chevrons were probably deemed as being too distinctively Citroen …
The car is a Megane-sized hatch/ coupe, which from the rear reminds me of the Alfa Brera, and from the front, a diamante’d Audi A3. There is some heavy sculpturing down the sides (a rising slash higher up – cutting into the rear lights – which conceals the door latches/ handles; and, one of those lower body pressings that is meant to take visual weight out of over-sized flanks, themselves necessitated by the current fashion for a slim turret and shallow side-glass) and bonnet. Oversized wheels (it is a concept) and exhaust outlets built into the rear valance (ditto) complete the picture outside. It’s chunky and does have that Audi-like solidity to the overall look, and has a certain kind of appeal. One can see some DS5 in the DNA, which is sensible, given what PSA wants to achieve in forging a new DS dynasty (whilst I have arrived at that point, by the way, in a neatly ironic juxtaposition, Renault presented the EOLAB, that, to my eyes, from the rear ¾ looked quite a lot like the DS5).
Moreover, and of which PSA can feel very proud, it looks nothing like a Citroen.
Unfortunately, someone somewhat spoiled the full impact of this achievement at the Paris show (do they still call it Salon?) by displaying the Divine on the same stand as a Citroen DS21. The decision to do this caused a further headache for PSA by highlighting what design and engineering genius genuinely looks like. The real DS is timeless in its futuristic style, and eye-watering (yes, commercially too – I may be a romantic, but I’m a financier as well) in its many engineering innovations. I have pictures of it on the wall in my office, and colleagues never fail to comment on the sheer beauty and originality of its design. One of these is a black and white photo, taken at its launch at the 1955 Salon, looking down onto a many-shades-of grey crowd gathered around a white-bodied, black-roofed DS19, displayed behind a white barrier, surrounded by new, yet suddenly dated Peugeots, FIATs, and the like. At the top right hand quarter of the picture, there is the silhouette of a stone-carved cherub – “an angel in the heavens looking down on the birth of an other-worldly Goddess”, as one of my observing (and poetic – so rare in Financial Services) colleagues recently put it.
I know it is folly to think that PSA would ever have the ambition, or recklessness, to recreate that production (un)ready achievement of 1955, and history has shown that, over time, constant, conservative evolution trumps revolution in the motor industry (Peugeot ate Citroen, after all). But surely the concept of a DS should amount to more than the application of hypertypage (no, me neither) and swathes of Swarovski Crystal Fabric to the interior. As such, the Divine is a crime against concepts, as well as a sacrilege against Citroen’s goddess.
Now, I really have to move on …