Dr. Stellantis – we need 200ml of adrenaline through the EMP2 platform this minute, otherwise he’ll flatline…
Be still my Yorkshire heartbeat, there remain yearnings for French saloons chez-Miles. For this I blame visits to Le Mans in years past, observing cool-looking battered saloons on the payage or sleek C6s or 607s parked effortless and poorly on village corners. But hark! A contrivance recently reported at AutoCropley – news that Stellantis are to brighten the saloon car world, as the sunrise.
A recent French offering to have piqued my interest was the current Peugeot 508. When seen on screen for the first time, this car, surely the company’s pain et beurre, with its Mustang-esque hind quarters, frameless windows and noticeably different interior style favoured highly with this Yorkshire native, but then, my tastes and current trends do not necessarily align.
But throw into the ring the new DS9, this Berline de Voyage, and my aortas are fully engaged. That rear end cuts more dashes than a daily Peripherique commuter. Grumble all you wish as to the DS brand, (there’s opportunity momentarily), this French/ Chinese saloon is better looking than anything pouring out of Deutschland of late, to these cross or sporting-averse eyes at least.
To Germany though we must return, Deutschpost haste. The DS9 is to be aimed fairly and squarely at The Big Three, not only on the quality front but more pointedly, price. Belay those guffaws for now. But fifty grand for a confused Citroën? Never mind plucking heartstrings – an altogether different form of EMP maybe in order to prevent cardiac arrest.
Meanwhile, according to double chevron head honcho, Vincent Cobée, the stylistic temperament will suit local taste. Cobée elucidates, “We’re not a particularly upper, middle or lower, positioned brand. But we fully intend to to push forward with our higher capabilities, demonstrating Citroën at a much higher level.” Bold statements for sure but containing how much provenance? Stellantis are striving to rid themselves of any kind of bad publicity with the buying masses, be those fleet or Joe Public. But I’m finding it difficult to differentiate between brands.
Peugeot UK’s Managing Director David Peel outlines that the 508 is a “slow burn, we’ve got the premium customers coming but won’t force the issue.” The Germans may pause a moment to grin under their face mask. Is DS then, the apparent enfant terrible, an attempt to try and outflank them all. Wisdom may not be heart shaped. Nor is it in stylised, badge engineered form, either.
Being one, small, insignificant voice against the mighty leaders makes for tall orders. 2020 sales were down – 2,320. A 2019 market share that stood at 0.19% has fallen (to a virus enhanced) 0.15. Purchasing (but more probably a form of leasing) on-line has become de rigueur but as doors slowly begin to re-open, no mere showroom will one enter.
These DS boutiques are not in every town or city outskirts. My nearest is over thirty miles away. But they do offer a valet service when the car requires one. And the, admittedly internet-only, look of the dealership, nay, boutique, does appear interesting if perhaps falsely inviting. Beatrice Foucher, VP of DS in 2019, extolled the virtues of it being “an extraordinary opportunity for those customers seeking a new experience.”
Could my inner Francophile could be satiated? DS Automobiles (already six years old but heralded as a conquest brand) by new UK chief, Jules Tilstone believes so. “There’s life outside a German brand, we offer premium Elevation here.” His lofty reference is to that of the savoir-faire, Paris experience where a close relationship is made between concierge and customer – one contact person offering (brand)-security and comfort.
Currently Citroën house DS salons in larger branches with the stand-alone boutiques showing better returns in interest and sales. More boutiques are planned as the name grows. One’s breath is not being held, especially when our Jules informed the magazine, “we don’t expect dramatic growth even as we launch the 4 and 9 arriving later.” More oh than ooh-la-la then, which is a little disappointing.
Tilstone is also quick to point out that Stellantis contains other brands for maximum sales potential, observing a (hopeful) one percent sales rise as acceptable. To a blunt Yorkshireman, this sounds neither confident in product nor progressive terms. These eyes, befuddled by bunkum and discontented by repeated disappointment, covet a French machine of substance – if not necessarily to own then at least to admire. Diamond stitching and fancy grilles are not cutting it with those of a more Germanic leaning- I’ve seen very few new DS’ sur la route.
DS has not made inroads, despite a very successful presence in the Formula E race series, garnering (in the UK) ambivalence, not acceptance with customers, a sobering viewpoint. Yorkshire folk, intrinsically cost conscious seem puzzled. Citroën, forever offering lucrative deals for a car which may not rate highly in the press but at least shows flair alongside tangential differences to rivals, has proved popular in this locale for years. The world may have grown smaller but are we ready for such a boutique experience? Probably not – but the heart can be fickle.
Whilst some form of candle may be held toward the increasingly unviable French saloon car, produced under whichever relevant Stellantis branch that is deemed relevant, the knowledge that the Shield will return brings with it momentum harboured over the decades. Tormented by Lancia’s long established decamp from UK shores*, the notion of a nicely finished and palpably more Italian motor, one feels an onrush of Erythrophobia.
Doubtless any new Lancia will run some form of utility over saloon and goodness only knows what their take on boutiques and after-care packages are likely to be, yet pulse rates quicken at the very thought. But can the Stellantis honey jar stretch to open heart surgery over so many niche products?
Some operations take time.
* At the time of writing it remains unclear if Lancia will be sold in the UK.