Where now for PSA’s flat-lining DS experiment?
The omens haven’t been good for some time now – oddly enough, it all really started going wrong once PSA decided to separate brand-DS from its Citroën parent. Since then, the descent has been rapid, bruising and ignominious. Despite all three existing DS models receiving expensive facelifts incorporating a new corporate nose, sales have fallen off a cliff. Over the period from January to May of 2017 alone, sales of the entry level (and top-selling) DS3 fell 35.3% to 12,136. Those of the C-segment DS4 contracted 33.4% to 5675 cars, while those of the current range topping DS5 plummeted 42.8% to 2730 units.
This is a long way from when PSA’s Frederic Banzet told Automotive News in 2011, “the DS line is a huge success”. With total European sales peaking at 117,374 in 2012 – (plus whatever they achieved in China), it certainly looked a lot healthier back then. Last year, DS sold 65 456 cars across Europe (plus a vastly shrunken Chinese tally). This year, they will do well to achieve 50,000 units. DS chief, Yves Bonnefort knows he has an Izoard to climb to reverse this and with no new product to sell until 2018 at the earliest, the best he can do is get his house in order in the hope of better times.
One of his recent wheezes has been to organise boot camps for DS sales teams, which have involved visits to luxury brand Van Cleef & Arpels to see how things are done at the high end. Creating a sales environment which doesn’t involve rubbing shoulders with prospective e-Mehari customers also appears part of Bonnefort’s strategy. PSA plans to launch a new DS model every year for the next six years. We’ve already been shown next year’s DS7 which is said to be followed by another crossover, replacing the DS3. Other formats are promised, but given the direction the market is taking, (not to mention DS’ parlous state) we cannot be certain of this – or anything really.
One has to have some sympathy for Bonnefort. He’s paid to place a positive slant on what is clearly a pretty dire situation. Defending PSA strategy as best he could, he told Automotive News recently, “I could have said, ‘I’m going to do some half-baked second-generation DS, and have something on the market faster. I didn’t want to do that because we are building a brand for the next 20 years.” Now, there are so many things wrong with this statement, one really doesn’t quite know where to begin, although I would recommend counting very slowly to twenty before doing so.
Whether of course Bonnefort or indeed those who replace him through the revolving doors of PSA will actually be building DS-branded automobiles in twenty years time is another matter entirely. Realistically, even with a following wind, they’re going to need at least another decade – more likely two and even then, there’s no guarantee of success.
It would save a tremendous amount of time, money to say nothing of corporate embarrassment to take the whole DS experiment outside, place its tinselled remains in a sack and quietly put it out of its misery. Prolonging it will only make the scale of failure more ruinous. PSA’s Carlos Tavares has taken on a fearsome task by attempting to integrate GM’s European car business into the troubled and ill-defined PSA hierarchy. There isn’t time and there certainly isn’t money for this nonsense. Stop now before it’s too late.
2017 sales figures source: Car Sales Base.
How to make Citroen relevant again? We make a modest proposal here: