I’ve kept the best for last. To close on our coverage of this year’s Paris Auto Show, we will go through the DS Experience. I have written some pretty harsh things on DS in the past few years, as their Citroen’s standalone brand initiative hasn’t been met with frank success, either in France and Europe or in China where the adventure originally started. Far from riding the SUV wave there, DS has launched the 5 LS sedan and 4S hatchback… Yet the Paris Auto Show 2016 had to be where DS could stand out, if it was up for the challenge.
And, to my great surprise, DS was up to the challenge.
It all started with a mysterious message from the DS PR department saying that there wouldn’t be any DS Press Conferences or single interviews at the Auto Show, rather a voyage through the “DS Experience” that could be booked at certain time slots. Dubious, I presented myself at the agreed time in a darkened DS stand, the only one in the Show that worked as an actual building with different, closed spaces and low ceilings. I was expecting a “Tour group” and one DS rep taking us quickly through the different spaces with a few lines of explanations. How wrong was I. The visit was exclusive, took over 50 minutes and I was the only guest – proudly realising how far Best Selling Cars Blog has gone since its creation six years ago…
Action speaks louder than words, and DS has done more at the Paris Auto Show 2016 to cement its French prestige positioning than anything it has said in the past two years that the brand exists.
Let’s experience DS now…
First up is Arnaud Ribault, International Marketing Director for DS, who I interviewed at the 2014 Paris Auto Show. “Every member of the DS Executive Committee will meet you throughout this exclusive visit. We start with the heritage area, featuring the 1955 Citroen DS, but also its sister the 1970 Citroen SM, taking the hydraulic suspension innovation even further and the emblematic expression of the luxury car of the time. Its maximum speed is 220 km/h with its Maserati engine. For us, both the DS and the SM are the alliance of refinement and avant-garde. This is the part of our heritage that we are building on with the Performance series and the E-Tense Concept that you will both discover shortly.
BSCB: Is the addition of the SM into the heritage of the DS brand something new?
Arnaud Ribault: The SM has always been part of our heritage but it is true that we are bringing it a little more to the forefront as we present concepts like the E-Tense which are a lot more performance-driven.
DS Director of Design Thierry Metroz
The next Member of the DS Executive Committee to conduct this exclusive DS voyage is Director of Design Thierry Metroz, and the presentation seamlessly transitions into a style study. “What we keep from the DS heritage in the style area is its avant-garde spirit. A very important caveat to this and something I absolutely forbid my teams and myself from doing is retro-design. What is an avant-garde spirit? It’s breaking codes all the while looking into the future. If I had to summarise the DS style in one word I would say “Hypnotic”. It’s cars that will be eye-catching and that we will memorise instantly. The DS style is an alchemy of exceptional tailor-made savoir-faire with avant-garde spirit and technological performance.”
BSCB: You always keep this atelier with artisanal tailor-making of fabrics on your stands?
Thierry Metroz: Always. It’s at the heart of our DNA. What DS really is is this mix of two worlds: technological and somewhat futuristic performance with artisan savoir-faire. Important to this are all the links we have with the French maisons de haute-couture. For example, we worked with the Maison Le Sage, the most prestigious embroidery expert in the world, on the 2014 Divine Concept car. Through our exchanges, we influenced and inspired each other and they created new embroidery processes inspired from the E-Tense grille which we created with parametric design, a numeric method that enables new shapes through 3D-Printing. They in turn created a specific embroidery through 3-D Printing for the Maison Chanel, all this through processes coming from the automotive world. This really shows that we speak the same language, we get better by working together and it’s a very rich and exciting process.
We are taking this artisan leadership further this year in Paris as we open a service called “Commande Speciale” (Special Order) which is a style offering that will be exclusive to DS. We create a tailor-made vehicle based on their wishes, needs and dreams. I personally meet each client at the DS World in Paris. This person comes with their ideas, photos, textures, inspirations, they can come from any country in the world. We define the framework together, then I meet the person again at the Design Centre where we can show them samples for approval.
BSCB: Is there a limited choice for colours, textures, leathers?
Thierry Metroz: It’s almost infinite. The only two limits we have are safety – we must respect all safety elements in the vehicle – and bad taste…
BSCB: Bad taste is a little complicated to define?
Thierry Metroz: We want to please our clients. If the person comes to us with ideas such as for example light blue paint with small pink stars, blue butterflies and interior made of pink fur, I will try and influence their choice to remove at least the stars and the fur (laughs). This is my role as a design consultant. But whatever they still want to do in the end, we’ll create it of course.
What you see here is the first personalised car we have done (pictures above and below). The main work was on the interior, with leather motifs and colours applied to a lot of different details such as the key ring. This braided leather for example does not exist anywhere on our lineup, this is specific to this model. There will not be a second model like this, ever. It’s a unique example. The green colour is inspired from the E-Tense concept car as our client really loved that specific green.
BSCB: How much more does it cost to get your car personalised like this?
Thierry Metroz: This specific car has a base price of 45.000€ and the exterior paint as well as all the interior design colours, rugs, unique gear shift leather, unique luggage assorted to the car, etc cost 25.000€ for an end price of 70.000€. In the premium universe it’s still a reasonable price, and this is a unique vehicle. It takes around 6 months to create from the first meeting with the client to the delivery of the car.
DS E-Tense Concept
We now transition to Eric Apode, DS Head of Product, Strategy and International Development, who leads me to the technology area of the DS stand. “I hope you have enjoyed the experience so far. For us it’s important to make yet another step towards luxury. We are very proud to be able to offer personalised and unique cars at DS. Two years ago we have decided to get involved in Formula E racing. We finished third for our first season. The team that works on the Formula E works within DS to make sure all learnings are integrated in our future products.
Eric Apode: “Our strategy relies on three points: 1. We are committed to high performance hybrid electric. 2. This means that all our new models will be offered either a hybrid or electric or both. 3. With our 2nd wave of vehicles we are launching our first PHEV: it will be the first global SUV for the DS brand.
BSCB: How will this SUV be positioned vs. the DS 6 currently on sale in China?
Eric Apode: It will also be launched in China where it will coexist with the DS 6 with which it won’t compete.
BSCB: Will you call is DS 7, 8, 9?
Eric Apode: Further elements will be revealed to you in the coming months, even under torture I am not able to give this piece of information to you right now (laughs).
Another element I wanted to show you is our new Virtual configuration tool, DS Virtual Garage. With this 3D tool you will be able to personalise your DS (body paint colour, leather, trims, etc) in every DS Store from 2017 onwards. This is a World First as no other car manufacturer currently offers this service. Car connectivity is also very important to us. Today 70% of our customers buy a connected car, 90% in China. We already have over 200.000 connected cars on the roads. I will now pass the relay to Yves Bonnefont our CEO…
Continue the DS Experience with CEO Yves Bonnefont below.